FACT CHECK on Dr. Umar Johnson’s Council of Nicea Claims

Dr. Umar Johnson has been very instrumental in filtering Pan-Afrikan influence into the black American sphere. While he succeeds at gathering support due to his justifiable exhibits to provide an exposé to subjugation of the black community, he fails at providing scholarly arguments in opposition of Christianity. In fact, his recent tweet contradicts previous comments he has made on the subject of religion.

In 2015, Dr. Umar told Nappy Thoughts TV, “I think that one of the decisions we need to make, or paradigm shifts that need to happen, is we need to stop dictating people’s religious beliefs. For me, the religion is not as big as the problem as other people perceive it to be. And that’s because, for me, it’s not what a person believes religiously, but how they think politically, economically, and culturally.” From the Christian perspective, there should not be a distinction between the two.

In fact, Isaiah 1:13-17 reads:

Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

Umar went on in this interview to praise Marcus Garvey, stating, “one of the reasons why his movement was the largest and the most successful we had in modern times is because he never attacked the religion, nor did he try to change it.”

However, Umar contradicted these comments by way of a recent tweet that was based on false, uncorroborated claims.

There are mountains of historical evidence to easily refute these claims (i.e. pages upon pages of writings from the Early Church Fathers, the writings of Eusebius, and several more ante-Nicene literature, as well as names such as Irenaeus and Polycarp making it their mission to dispel heresies such as Marcionism, Monarchianism, and Valentinianism), but I will address the Diocletian persecution.

On February 23, 303, Christians suffered a mass persecution under the rule of Roman Emperor Diocletian. On this day, which celebrated Terminalia, or “the god of boundaries” (The Modern Pagan: How to live a Natural Lifestyle in the 21th Century, pg. 88), the pagans sought to terminate the movement of Christianity. The persecution initially occurred in Nicodemia, as pagan authorities invaded churches and proceeded to burn both the Bibles and the buildings. Following this, and edict was given to continue these acts of persecution, to resume burning other churches and Bibles. In addition, the edict declared to label Christians as outlaws. The previous year, junior Roman Emperor Galerius urged Diocletian to launch a general persecution of the Christian movement, due to the declining influence of the oracle at Delphi Apollo being blamed on the spreading influence of Christianity.

Eusebius states, “All this was fulfilled in my time, when I saw with my own eyes the houses of worship demolished to their foundations, the inspired and sacred Scriptures committed to flames in the middle of the public squares, and the pastors of the churches hiding shamefully in one place or another, or arrested and held up to ridicule by their enemies.” He adds, “In March of the nineteenth year of Diocletian’s reign, when the festival of Savior’s passion [Easter] was approaching, an imperial edict was announced everywhere ordering that the churches be demolished and the Scriptures destroyed by fire. Any [Christians] who held high places would lose them, while those in households would be imprisoned if they continued to profess Christianity” (Eusebius – The Church History, pg. 292).

During this persecution, as Eusebius explains, not only were Bibles and building burned, but an overwhelming number of Christians were martyred for their devotion to Christ. Being “scourged mercilessly” and “dragged a long distance by feet” were just a couple of heinous acts publicly displayed to silence the widespread of Christianity.

This source from Eusebius proved Christianity existed at least 23 years before the Council of Nicaea.

The torture continued in 303, as six people were beheaded for being accused for starting a fire that severely damaged the imperial palace at Nicodemia. While there was no evidence found to justifiably accuse Christians of this fire, they were tortured and killed for several weeks. The beheadings occurred on April 24. In the Summer of 303, Diocletian ordered arrests of all Christian priests and bishops. Later in the year, Diocletian would order a general amnesty, but only if Christians priests embraced cultic pagan practices. Some complied, while some refused. These persecutions continued during Diocletian’s reign, until he resigned in 305 and was replaced by Galerius.

Galerius continued the persecution of Christians. However, realizing he was dying, his view on Christianity radically changed, and he issued the Edict of Toleration in 311. Galerius even stated, “[l]t should be the duty of the Christians, in view of our clemency [mercy], to pray to their god for our welfare, for that of the Empire, and for their own, so that the Empire may remain intact in all its parts, and that they themselves may live safely in their habitations.” Just two years later, the Edict of Milan was issued by Constantine in 313, officially ending religious persecution, as well as pagan dominance in Europe.

11 years later, in 324, Constantine aimed for Christianity to be the religion of the Roman Empire. Then, on July 4, 325, the Council of Nicaea occurred (assembling a little over 300 bishops from Africa, Europe, and Asia), to rid the aforementioned heresies, specifically the Arian heresy that was attempting to spread. Eusebius was also present at this council, and recorded the interactions. This council did not determine that Jesus was the Son of God, but rather sought to dispel heresies that were trying to combat with over 200 years of church fathers already proclaiming that Jesus was the Son of God, coeternal with God the Father, and has always existed from eternity past.

Here is an excerpt of Eusebius’ letter to his church regarding the Nicene Creed:

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God from God, Light from Light, Life from Life, Only-begotten Son, first-born of every creature, begotten from the Father before all the ages, by whom also all things were made; who for our salvation was made flesh, and lived among men, and suffered, and rose again the third day, and ascended to the Father, and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. And we believe also in one Holy Spirit. We believe each of these to be and to exist, the Father truly Father, and the Son truly Son, and the Holy Spirit truly Holy Spirit, as also our Lord said when he sent forth his disciples to preach, ‘Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Concerning which things we confidently affirm that this is what we maintain, how we think, and what we have held up until now, and that we will maintain this faith unto death, anathematizing every ungodly heresy.”

Arius argued, “if the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows, that he [the Son] had his substance from nothing.” However, since this did not support the Trinitarian doctrine of Scripture, it was declared heretical. In 320, 80 church leaders, including Athanasius, signed a document to declare Arianism heretical, so Arius went elsewhere to spread his teachings (i.e. Palestine). A year later, another council was assembled, and Arius defended his positions once again. Here, he stated that the Son was not the same essence of the father, and was again excommunicated.

Arius was readmitted to the church following a review from Eusebius of Nicodemia (not Eusebius of Caesarea). Alexander then wrote a statement of faith, and convinced over 250 church leaders to sign it, which excommunicated Arius. As a result, Arius had an opportunity to make his case to the city of Nicea to Constantine, which was the driving force of the 325 Council.

So, here are just a fraction of historical facts as to why the Council of Nicea was not 1) an “official Europeanization of the Christian Church,” 2) the “first ever caucasian conference to settle differences in belief over the divinity of Jesus Christ” (it wasn’t even a “caucasian conference,” and Arius tried to defend his position in previous conferences), and 3) a determination that “Jesus was the one and only begotten Son of God” (rather, it was to dispel the heresy of Arius, who DID NOT believe this).

Chris Featherstone is a Theologian, Christian Apologist, and PhD Candidate. He holds a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Liberty University. Subscribe to the CHRIS FEATHERSTONE – VIZION UNITED PODCAST channel on YouTube.

 

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