Brief history between the Council of Nicea 325 and the Council of Constantinople 381
Arian controversy: Priest called Arius who was a North African (in the region of modern day Libya). He was claiming Jesus was subordinate to God the Father. He believed Jesus was a created being (there was a time that the son did not exist).
Initially the Christian body was a persecuted structure and thus Christians existed in autonomous underground pockets. It was only after the Edict of Milan in 313 (allowing Christianity to be practiced freely) when they were allowed to try and organise as a whole, hence the controversies.
Alex Hall challenges a myth
Many people did not see anything scandalous or wrong with what Arius was teaching. He was not a radical out on the fringes - many people believed what he taught.
Both sides of the debate resorted to violence and thuggery.
In 318 Bishop of Alexander called a council of bishops to unify against the teachings of Arius. Anybody who refused to sign up was threatened with the removal from their position.
Arius met up with Eusebius of Nicomedia. In 319 he convenes his own council which overturns the decision of Alexander.
321-22 another council is drawn up by Eusebius of Caeseria who also endorses Arius.
In 325 the council of Antioch meets up and comes up with a proto-Trinitarian creed. They anathemtised anybody who did not sign up to it.
Later in the same year, the council of Nicea meets up under the presidency of Constantine. His motivation is to unite the Christians. The term Homoousia comes into use. Arius and a couple of others refused to sign up to this and thus were exiled.
328 Council of Nicomedia rules in favour of Arius
335 Council of Tyre also favours Arius. Bishop Alexander has died by now. Athanasius rises to the fore of the anti-Arian movement. Athanasius was a controversial figure. He is put on trial at this council charged with the beating, kidnap, arson and torture of people against his theology. He is found guilty despite kidnapping the witnesses during the trial! [12-13min] He is exiled to Gaul. Upon the death of Constantine Athanasius returned from exile.
336 Another council held in Constantinople (not the council of Constantinople). The Arian creed is upheld and agin in another council in 337.
As of now this point there have been 9 councils: 3 were against Ariaus, the rest were in favour of him!
337 another council of bishops in Antioch convene. Athanasius is under trial for several murders and the misapproriation of charitable funds to finance his violent campaigns.
338 Eastern church leaders hold a council and go against Athanasius.
339 imperial troops set out to arrest Athanasius which leads to civil disruption. Athanasius manages to escape. He then flees to the Western ruler Constance.
342 Pope Julius at the council of Tr condemns the Athanasians.
343 2 councils and another one in 345: These are hung councils thus there was no decision either way.
353 Constantius becomes the sole emperor. After this there is a handful of councils which all rule in favour of Arianism between 353-360 (8 councils).
Emperor Theodocius comes to power in 379. He is Athanasian and militant in his persecution of Arians. He issues a law which persecutes anybody not agreeing with Athanasian theology.
In 381 the Council of Constantinople fiercely endorses Athanasian creed.
Arians were persecuted. Their books were destroyed and to this day, what we know about them is through the written material by others. Victors write the history books!
Church council stats: 15 ruled in favour of the Arian creed, 7 for the Nicean creed and 3 were undecided.
A good deal of Alex Hall's work was influenced by Richard Rubenstein's "When Jesus Became God".