The men that were at the council suffered great persecution for their faith and would not readily hand over their deeply held beliefs at the whim of the emperor. These men were survivors of the pre-Constantine persecution and many even died for not handing over sacred texts. Simply rolling over for the emperor seems highly unlikely. Moreover, there is certainly no indication that they would “take the material and play throw it against the wall and see what sticks” as one commenter in my last post stated. More accurately, from Columbia University:
The Church was willing to accept the help of an emperor, to listen to what he had to say, but not to accept the rule of an emperor in matters of faith. However one describes the role of Constantine at the Council of Nicea, it must be remembered that the Creed of Nicea expressed what the great majority of bishops at the council found to be traditional, Biblical, and orthodox of the Christian faith, a faith in which they believed so firmly that they were willing to die for it. [emphasis added]
I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Constantine was irrelevant; however, is influence could merely go so far. In addition, the matter of Jesus’ Christology was quite one sided. Only Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais were the ones not agreeing and in the end voted against the creed. Moreover, there is no historical record that I know of that includes Constantine in the votes. This doesn’t sound like pulling ostentatious or contrived doctrine to me.
The high Christology of Jesus came long before Constantine. We have record not only in the New Testament, but early Church fathers attesting to Jesus’ high Cristology (i.e. calling Him God) as well. For example, Ignatius (30-107 A.D.), Polycarp (69-155 A.D.), Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.), Tatian (110-172 A.D.), Irenaeus (120-202 A.D.), Tertullian (145-220 A.D.), Caius (180-217 A.D.), Gregory Thaumaturgus (205-265 A.D.), Novatian (210-280 A.D.), Athanasius (293-373 A.D.), and on and on. Jesus’ Divinity did not appear out of thin air centuries after His death.
In Ignatius’ (30-107 A.D.) letter to the Ephesians, and other letters we find:
"Jesus Christ our God"; "who is God and man"; "received knowledge of God, that is, Jesus Christ"; "for our God, Jesus the Christ"; "for God was manifest as man"; "Christ, who was from eternity with the Father"; "from God, from Jesus Christ"; "from Jesus Christ, our God"; "Our God, Jesus Christ"; "suffer me to follow the example of the passion of my God"; "Jesus Christ the God" and "Our God Jesus Christ."
More authoritatively, the New Testament itself established the Divinity of Christ throughout. Nevertheless, given human nature there, were plenty of apostates in the second century. Historian Will Durant in The Story of Civilization: Part III-Caesar and Christ explains:
The Church took over some religious customs and forms common in pre-Christian [pagan] Rome-the stole and other vestments of pagan priests, the use of incense and holy water in purifications, the burning of candles and an everlasting light before the altar, the worship of the saints, the architecture of the basilica, the law of Rome as a basis for canon law, the title of Pontifex Maximus for the Supreme Pontiff, and, in the fourth century, the Latin language . . . Soon the bishops, rather than the Roman prefects, would be the source of order and the seat of power in the cities; the metropolitans, or archbishops, would support, if not supplant, the provincial governors; and the synod of bishops would succeed the provincial assembly. The Roman Church followed in the footsteps of the Roman state.
In spite the clear admonition by the Apostle Paul, apostates of the second century fell pray to the pagan Roman religions of their day. The Biblical origins that were in place at the time were ignored or dismissed—just as they often are today. Power, especially governmental power, corrupts man. And in corruption faith always takes the back seat. Such as the infiltration of corruption entered the Christian faith, so stood those defended the Orthodox understanding of Christ often with their blood and their lives.
To fight against such apostasies and bring unity back to the Church; the Council of Nicea formulated the creed which was the recognition of the foundations of Christianity—not the establishment of Christianity. Unfortunately, Constantine’s establishment of Christianity in Rome brought much corruption. Constantine’s involvement with the Council of Nicea didn’t influence doctrine, but did influence the affairs of the Church and State in the Empire, which would change history forever.
However, the debate for Christ has never ended—it has continued for centuries. That’s why scripture is to be the final authority. Nonetheless, it has always been the central tenant of Christianity. In think Spurgeon said it best in “Holding Fast The Faith” when he wrote:
One of the main points of a Christian—without which the rest of his life will not be acceptable with God—is that Jesus shall be to him “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” The practical, the doctrinal, the experimental must all be found by us in Jesus Christ our Lord or else we have not placed Him in His right position. And we cannot be right anywhere unless the center is right and unless Jesus is that center. God grant that we may never turn aside from the faith once for all delivered to the saints. But may we resist all false philosophies—steadfast and immovable!
By demoting Christ and removing His deity and incarnation, one removes the central Truth of Christianity. It’s about His Person—who He is. Jesus is the center of our Faith; remove Him and it’s not Christianity, it just someone’s flavor or invention of “religion.”