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by Tim Barnett
Can I be honest with you? Some statements get me frustrated. I can usually keep my cool when people say things I disagree with, but this statement puts me over the top. I am sick and tired of people claiming that the Council of Nicea (c. AD 325) made Jesus into God.
This is a claim that you will hear from both cultists and skeptics. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses are famous for making this claim. In their publication Should You Believe in the Trinity? they write, “Constantine’s role was crucial. After two months of furious religious debate, this pagan politician intervened and decided in favor of those who said that Jesus was God.” On this view, Emperor Constantine invented the deity of Christ in the fourth century.
This view was also propagated to millions of people in the bestselling book The Da Vinci Code: “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.... By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable.” Given the enormous popularity of The Da Vinci Code, this belief has become fully ingrained into the consciousness of the rank-and-file.
How should we respond to this claim? I have a two-pronged approach. First, I ask a question: How did you come to that conclusion? This is the second Columbo question in Greg Koukl’s book Tactics. It is one thing to make a historical claim, but it is another thing to back it up with historical facts. And this often-recited claim lacks any kind of historical support.
At this point, don’t be surprised if the person who raised the challenge cannot answer your question. The fact is, most people in our culture make claims they are not equipped to defend. This is not the time to insult; this is the time to inform. The person who made the claim is deeply misinformed, and you now have the opportunity to correct him. This leads to the second prong of your response…
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