It happened today - May 20, 2016

The Trinity is 1691 years old today. Sort of. For it was on May 20 of 325 AD that the First Council of Nicaea convened to settle various matters including the proper date of Easter and, most crucially, the relationship of Christ the Son to God the Father in Christian theology.

There was lively debate whether Christ was in some way subsidiary, created by God from nothing and having a temporal beginning as Arius in particular argued, or whether he was “begotten” from the Father’s own being and thus existed eternally. The decision was overwhelmingly for the latter. Of the attendees variously estimated between 250 and 318, exactly two voted Nay.

The vote didn’t settle things at once; the “Arian heresy” troubled the church for many years and has a few adherents today. (At least one medieval Christian thinker declared Muhammad “the successor of Arias” and he didn’t mean it in a good way.) But in the end it did settle things, and the Nicene Creed contains the orthodox position on the Trinity believed by virtually all Christians today.

It’s the sort of argument that might strike modern people as frivolous, caught up as they are in debates over New Coke and various types of hip hop and Twitter fights over who is more like Hitler. (Answer: online everybody sooner or later.) But the decisions taken at Nicaea have held up, and inspired people, for very nearly two millennia.

Is any major decision taken in our time likely to be remembered at all, let alone still believed, in 3707 AD? Actually in an age of progress, where change is our mantra, I suppose we’d be dismayed if anything we agreed on now were still believed in a decade, let alone a millennium. But then what’s the point of agreeing on it now?

At least at Nicaea they thought it mattered.