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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

“IT is likely that you have learnt from other sources what was decided respecting the faith of the church at the general council of Nice; for the fame of great transactions generally precedes the accurate detail of them: but lest rumours not strictly founded in truth should have reached you, I think it necessary to send to you, first, the formulary of faith originally proposed by us, and, secondly, the additions appended to it by the bishops when setting it forth. The following is our formulary, which was read in the presence of our most pious emperor, and which was fully approved by all:—

“ ‘The faith which we hold is that which we have received from the bishops who were before us, and in the rudiments of which we were instructed when we were baptised. It is that which we learnt from the Holy Scriptures, and which, when among the presbytery as well as when we were placed in the episcopal office, we have believed and have taught; and which we now believe, for we still uphold our own faith. It is as follows:—

“ ‘I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of all things, whether visible or invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the word of God, God of God, Light of light, Life of life, the only begotten Son, the First-born of all creatures, begotten of the Father before all ages; by whom all things were made: who for our salvation took upon him our nature, and dwelt with men. He suffered and rose again the third day, and ascended to the Father; and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We also believe in one Holy Ghost. We believe in the existence of each person; we believe that the Father is in truth the Father; that the Son is in truth the Son; that the Holy Ghost is in truth the Holy Ghost; for our Lord, when sending out his disciples to preach the Gospel, said, ‘Go forth and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ We positively affirm that we hold this faith, that we have always held it, and that we shall adhere to it even unto death, condemning all ungodly heresy. We testify, as before God the Almighty and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we have believed in these truths from the heart, and from the soul, ever since we have been capable of reflection; and we have the means of showing, and, indeed, of convincing you, that we have always during all periods believed and preached them.’

“When this formulary was set forth by us, no one found occasion to gainsay it; but our beloved emperor was the first to testify that it was most orthodox, and that he coincided in opinion with it; and he exhorted the others to sign it, and to receive all the doctrine it contained, with the single addition of the one word—con-substantial. He said that this term con-substantial implied no bodily affection, for that the Son did not derive his existence from the Father either by means of division or of abscision. ‘An immaterial, intellectual, and incorporeal nature,’ said he, ‘cannot be subject to bodily operations. These things must be understood as bearing a divine and mysterious signification.’ Thus reasoned our wisest and most religious emperor. The omission of the word con-substantial was adopted as the pretext for composing the following formulary:—

“ ‘The Articles of Faith maintained by the Council.—We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father; he is begotten, that is to say, he is of the substance of God, God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten and not made, being of one substance with the Father: by whom all things both in heaven and on earth were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and took our nature, and became man; he suffered, and rose again the third day; he ascended into heaven, and will come to judge the living and the dead. And we believe in the Holy Ghost.—The holy catholic and apostolical church condemns all those who say that there was a period in which the Son of God did not exist; that before he was begotten he had no existence; that he was called out of nothing into being; that he is of a different nature and of a different substance from the Father; and that he is susceptible of variation or change.’

“When they had set forth this formulary, we did not fail to revert to that passage in which they assert that the Son is of the substance of the Father, and of one substance with the Father. Questions and arguments thence arose. By investigating the meaning of the term, they were led to confess that the word con-substantial signifies that the Son is of the Father, but not as being part of the Father’s nature. We deemed it right to receive this opinion; for that is sound doctrine which teaches that the Son is of the Father, but not part of his substance. From the love of peace, and from the fear of deviating from the principles of truth, we accept this exposition without rejecting the term in question. For the same reason we admit the expression, ‘begotten, but not made;’ for they say that the word ‘made’ is applied to all things which were created by the Son, and which cannot be placed in comparison with him, none of the creatures that he has made being like him. He is by nature superior to all created objects, for he was begotten of the Father, as the Holy Scriptures teach, by a mode of generation which is incomprehensible and inexplicable to all created beings. The mode in which the Son is said to be of the substance of the Father was declared to bear no relation to the body, nor to the laws of mortal life: it was also shown that it does not either imply division of substance, nor abscision, nor any change or diminution in the power of the Father. The nature of the unbegotten Father is not susceptible of these operations. It was concluded that the expression ‘of the substance of the Father,’ implies only that the Son of God does not resemble, in any one respect, the creatures which he has made; but that to the Father, who begat him, he is in all points perfectly similar: for he is of the nature and of the substance of none save of the Father. This interpretation having been given of the doctrine, it appeared right to us to receive it, especially as some of the ancient and most celebrated bishops and writers have used the term con-substantial when reasoning on the divinity of the Father and of the Son. These are the circumstances which I had to communicate respecting the formulary of the faith. To it we all agreed, not thoughtlessly, but after mature reflection; and after having subjected it to thorough examination in the presence of our most beloved emperor, we all, for the above reasons, acquiesced in it. We also willingly admitted the anathema appended by them to their formulary of faith, because it prohibits the use of words which are not scriptural; for almost all the disorders and troubles of the Church have arisen from the introduction of such words. As no one part of the inspired writings contains the assertion that the Son was called out of nothing into being, or that there was a period in which he had no existence, nor indeed any of the other phrases of similar import which have been introduced, it does not appear reasonable to assert or to teach such things. In this opinion, therefore, we judged it right to agree; and, indeed, we had never, at any former period, been accustomed to use such words. Moreover, the condemnation of the assertion that before he was begotten he had no existence, does not involve any incongruity, because all assent to the fact that he was the Son of God before he was begotten according to the flesh. And here our most beloved emperor began to reason concerning his divine origin, and his existence before all ages. He was power in the Father, even before he was begotten, the Father having always been the Father, just as the Son has always been a King and a Saviour; he has always possessed all power, and has likewise always remained in the same state.

“We thought it requisite, beloved brethren, to transmit you an account of these circumstances, in order to show you what examination and investigation we bestowed on all the questions which we had to decide; and also to prove how firmly, even to the last hour, we persevered in refusing our assent to certain sentences, which, when merely committed to writing, offended us. But yet we subsequently, and without contention, received these very doctrines, because, after thorough investigation of their signification, they no longer appeared objectionable to us, but seemed conformable to the faith held by us, and confessed in our formulary.”








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