The Emergence of the Pro-Nicene Alliance
pro-Nicene alliance, Nicene Creed, church councils, consensus-building, Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil of Caesarea
This chapter narrates the emergence of the pro-Nicene alliance by arguing that it was a consensus-building movement. It begins by tracing the history of other consensus-building movements in the fractured theological landscape of the years 325-61 in order to demonstrate their development of various consensus-building tactics, which were ultimately used unsuccessfully. The impetus for the pro-Nicene alliance itself was dissatisfaction with, or the failure of, these previous efforts. Pro-Nicenes adopted four tactics of previous consensus-building efforts and deployed them successfully: (1) defining itself as the center between extreme positions, (2) promoting a minimalist creed that nonetheless ruled out extremes to be avoided, (3) acknowledging that the meaning of a creed was not self-evident and producing supplementary material to insure its correct interpretation, and (4) securing imperial patronage. The chapter then turns to shifts in thinking which occurred in the early 360s and made consensus between former opponents possible, taking Athanasius of Alexandria and Basil of Caesarea as paradigmatic examples of these shifts. The chapter concludes by narrating the consolidation and ascendency of the pro-Nicene alliance in the late 370s and early 380s.
The Cambridge Companion to the Council of Nicaea