Khaled ANATOLIOS. Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MN: Baker Academic, 2011. Pp. 292, index. $32.98. ISBN978-0-8010-3132-8 (cloth).
Reviewed by Nathan R. KOLLAR, St John Fisher College, Rochester, NY 1418

Obviously what Nicaea said and did is lost because it needs retrieving. Billions of Christians have prayed its creed in one form or another over the centuries and still, one thousand six hundred and eighty six years later, we are looking for it, trying to understand its meaning. Did Christians over the centuries proclaim belief in something that was lost and they did not totally understand? What did they believe when they proclaimed “Credo”? Did that proclamation coincide with that of the Bishops at Nicaea and their co-religionists throughout time? Khaled Anatolios proposes to answer these questions by demonstrating how those at Nicaea answered them in relation to those who had gone before them in the faith. After all, it had been centuries since the apostles went forth and preached their belief that Nicaea sought to continue. He does this by tracing the development of the ideas expressed at Nicaea and its subsequent conciliar interpretations. Retrieving Nicaea seeks to restore not the words of Nicaea but the development of doctrine that produced those words and channeled all subsequent interpretations of those words – the development of doctrine that resulted in what we, today, call Trinity.

What gradually changes in this development is the very notion of divine transcendence and the realization that we cannot “…encompass the being of God within the confines of human knowing.”(p.9) Divine transcendence comes to be understood as inherent to divine being. “While God is by nature inaccessible, he makes himself accessible to creation through his love.” (p.104) Philanthropia makes God what God is. Thus what we cannot grasp with our minds we can relate to with our being as we become, in Baptism, a sharer in this divine philanthropia

. Anatopolios takes us into the inner connections between the biblical words, phrases, and thoughts and those of the Mediterranean bishops’ cultures and theological ideologies. He does so with clarity, sensitivity to the faith of all the participants in the controversy, and deep devotion to the Trinitarian life we all share. This sharing of Trinitarian life is expressed in the many things the conversants themselves shared, especially: the primacy of Christ, the revelatory nature of the bible, and the importance of episcopal decision making.

This is a very good book in content and presentation. Baker Academic should be congratulated for allowing Anatopolios to share with us his knowledge through extensive footnotes (not end notes), bibliography, subject index, as well as an index of modern authors and of ancient sources. This is a book by a scholar for scholars.

As a book for scholars it should be read by anyone who has an interest in the development of doctrine, the meaning of God, and the role of Father, Son, and Spirit with us and each other. One would only pray that the bishops of today would join those scholars in their reading and understanding of doctrinal development and in translating the biblical languages into the contemporary languages. In other words, retrieve Nicaea.

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