The first step is to understand the significance the Nicene theologians placed on the relationship between the Father and the Son. This came through the all important term homoousios to Patri. (όμοούσιοϛ τω Πάτρι) describing the internal oneness of being between the Father and the Son. This brought to bear the clarity of the Oneness in relationship between the Father and the Son in three ways:
- What we see in Jesus Christ is this human being coming from out of the being of God (έκ της ούσίας). Thus the relationship between the Father and the Son falls in the one being of God where they mutually dwell in one another. Time, knowledge and being are a seamless garment between the two. Nevertheless, we have to note that God the Father is as Father of the Son while the Son is likewise God of God exactly as He is eternally the Son of the Father. The emphasis was on Jesus’ union with the I AM of the Godhead where Jesus is everything the Father is except Father. Thereby we have a distinction between the two Persons of the Godhead.
- (Therefore) we have God revealed to us in Jesus Christ, is who God is, in Himself, in His relation towards us. As ousia (ουςια) points to the inward nature of the Father, Son and Spirit, the Persons of the Trinity in distinction from one another is described through the Greek word, hypostasis (ύπόςτασις) showing their outward expression as we stand before them. The inner being of God is expressed in the outward appearance as Father, Son and Spirit where the Nicene theologians often described God as one being three Persons. The fullest expression we have of the being of God is through the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore Jesus’ direct communication to us through Holy Scripture including His acts and words are the outward expression revealed to us by the Spirit of the very being of God as Father, Son and Spirit. God accurately and specifically is what God does in the whole content of the saving work and act in the whole life of Jesus Christ. The Christian doctrine of God overflows out of the wellspring of God’s being through the whole life of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. God shows himself to be a speaking being, an acting being in a dynamic and interactive way through all the human faculties using our concept, terms and manner of speech so that we perceive Him as He actually is
- More significantly than anything else is the remarkable statement as to the outcome of the council where Athanasius described it as the Great Synod were they of Nicaea . . . where they breathed the spirit of Scripture (Athanasius Ad Afr., 4). They made numerous references to Scripture and held it with the highest of regard. On the one hand, there was the widespread understanding of the canon of truth and on the other hand there was the canon of Holy Scripture where the two interacted and complimented each other. With the relationship of the Father and Son now expressed precisely through όμοούσιοϛ τω Πάτρι Holy Scripture was scrutinised through this filter to ensure that any exegete would allow the truth of Scripture to clothe them with the truth of all godliness. More than ever now, Athanasius believed that the sovereign principle of faith could be safeguarded from misunderstanding. The clarification of the relationship between the Father and the Son through the use of the word homoousion made clear a rule for all manner of interpretation and brought into line everything that claimed to be of Christian origin placing it under the now newly formed homoousion principle rule. Those books that passed the test of the homoousion principle were considered as canon. Athanasius said, ‘These are fountains of salvation so that he who thirsts may take his fill from the living words in them. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take anything from them’ (Athanasius, Fest. Ep. (of 367), 39:1-7)
One might argue that using a non-biblical word like homoousios is going beyond Scripture and producing a non accurate means of defining the gospel. However, those who endeavour to undermine the union of beings between the Son and the Father are also using sources beginning outside of Scripture to support their case. What the use of this word has achieved is more clarity and precision of where the Nicene church stood on this issue leaving very little, if any room, for misunderstanding. By holding firmly to this rule as the theological context for interpretation, Athanasius believed the church was able to remain upon the Apostolic foundation and was able to hand the truth over to the next generation fully preserved and without any perversion.