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Arianism is the theological teaching of Arius (ca. AD 250–336), a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity ('God the Father', 'God the Son' and 'God the Holy Spirit') and the precise nature of the Son of God. Deemed a heretic by the First Council of Nicaea of 325, Arius was later exonerated in 335 at the First Synod of Tyre[1], and then pronounced a heretic again after his death at the First Council of Constantinople of 381.[2] The Roman Emperors Constantius II (337-361) and Valens (364-378) were Arians or Semi-Arians.

Arianism is defined as those teachings attributed to Arius which are in opposition to mainstream Trinitarian Christological dogma, as determined by the first two Ecumenical Councils and currently maintained by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and most Protestant Churches. "Arianism" is also often used to refer to other nontrinitarian theological systems of the 4th century, which regarded Jesus Christ—the Son of God, the Logos—as either a created being (as in Arianism proper and Anomoeanism), or as neither uncreated nor created in the sense other beings are created (as in Semi-Arianism).

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Origin

Arius posed the question: "Is Jesus unbegotten?"[citation needed] In answer, he taught that God the Father and the Son did not exist together eternally. Further, Arius taught that the pre-incarnate Jesus was a divine being created by (and therefore inferior to) God the Father at some point, before which the Son did not exist.[3] In English-language works, it is sometimes said that Arians believe that Jesus is or was a "creature"; in the sense of "created being". That doctrine that Arius wrote was based on Scriptures such as John 14:28 where Jesus says that the father is "greater than I", to John 17:20-26, where Jesus asks that the Apostles become "one as we are one" so that all of them, including Jesus, and God become one. This is interpreted as indicating that the oneness refers to a unity of divine thought and will, and not a unity in a co-eternal Trinity.[citation needed]

Of all the various disagreements within the Christian Church, the Arian controversy has held the greatest force and power of theological and political conflict, with the possible exception of the Protestant Reformation. The conflict between Arianism and Trinitarian beliefs was the first major doctrinal confrontation in the Church after the legalization of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine I.[citation needed]

The controversy over Arianism began to rise in the late 3rd century and extended over the greater part of the 4th century and involved most church members, simple believers, priests and monks as well as bishops, emperors and members of Rome's imperial family. Yet, such a deep controversy within the Church could not have materialized in the 3rd and 4th centuries without some significant historical influences providing the basis for the Arian doctrines. Most orthodox or mainstream Christian historians define and minimize the Arian conflict as the exclusive construct of Arius and a handful of rogue bishops engaging in heresy. Of the roughly three hundred bishops in attendance at the Council of Nicea, only three bishops did not sign the Nicene Creed. However, to minimize the extent of Arianism ignores the fact that extremely prominent Emperors such as Constantius II, and Valens were Arians, as well as prominent Gothic, Vandal, and Lombard warlords both before and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and that none of these groups was out of the mainstream of the Roman Empire in the 4th century.[citation needed]

After the dispute over Arius politicized the debate and a catholic or general solution to the debate was sought, with a great majority holding to the Trinitarian position, the Arian position was declared officially to be heterodox. Lucian of Antioch had contended for a christology very similar to what would later be known as Arianism and is thought to have contributed much to its development. Arius was a student of Lucian's private academy in Antioch. The Ebionites, among other early Christian groups, may also have maintained similar doctrines that can be associated with formal Lucian and Arian Christology.[citation needed]

While Arianism continued to dominate for several decades even within the family of the Emperor, the Imperial nobility, and higher-ranking clergy, in the end it was Trinitarianism which prevailed in the Roman Empire at the end of the 4th century. Arianism, which had been taught by the Arian missionary Ulfilas to the Germanic tribes, was dominant for some centuries among several Germanic tribes in western Europe, especially Goths and Lombards (and significantly for the late Empire, the Vandals), but ceased to be the mainstream belief by the 8th century. Trinitarianism remained the dominant doctrine in all major branches of the Eastern and Western Church and later within Protestantism, although there have been several anti-Trinitarian movements, some of which acknowledge various similarities to classical Arianism.[citation needed]

Beliefs

Because most extant written material on Arianism was written by its opponents, the nature of Arian teachings is difficult to define precisely today. The letter of Auxentius,[4] a 4th-century Arian bishop of Milan, regarding the missionary Ulfilas, gives the clearest picture of Arian beliefs on the nature of the Trinity: God the Father ("unbegotten"), always existing, was separate from the lesser Jesus Christ ("only-begotten"), born before time began and creator of the world. The Father, working through the Son, created the Holy Spirit, who was subservient to the Son as the Son was to the Father. The Father was seen as "the only true God". 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 was cited as proof text:

Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth — as in fact there are many gods and many lords — yet for us there is one God (Gk. theos - θεος), the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord (kyrios - κυριος), Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
NRSV

A letter from Arius to the Arian Eusebius of Nicomedia succinctly states the core beliefs of the Arians:

Some of them say that the Son is an eructation, others that he is a production, others that he is also unbegotten. These are impieties to which we cannot listen, even though the heretics threaten us with a thousand deaths. But we say and believe and have taught, and do teach, that the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any way part of the unbegotten; and that he does not derive his subsistence from any matter; but that by his own will and counsel he has subsisted before time and before ages as perfect God, only begotten and unchangeable, and that before he was begotten, or created, or purposed, or established, he was not. For he was not unbegotten. We are persecuted, because we say that the Son has a beginning, but that God is without beginning.
Peters, Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, p. 41

First Council of Nicaea and its aftermath

A 4th-century miniature of the Council of Nicaea, which condemned Arius's teaching

In 321, Arius was denounced by a synod at Alexandria for teaching a heterodox view of the relationship of Jesus to God the Father. Because Arius and his followers had great influence in the schools of Alexandria—counterparts to modern universities or seminaries—their theological views spread, especially in the eastern Mediterranean.

By 325, the controversy had become significant enough that the Emperor Constantine called an assembly of bishops, the First Council of Nicaea, which condemned Arius' doctrine and formulated the Original Nicene Creed[5], forms of which are still recited in Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and some Protestant services. The Nicene Creed's central term, used to describe the relationship between the Father and the Son, is Homoousios, or Consubstantiality, meaning "of the same substance" or "of one being". (The Athanasian Creed is less often used but is a more overtly anti-Arian statement on the Trinity.)

The focus of the Council of Nicaea was the divinity of Christ (see Paul of Samosata and the Synods of Antioch). Arius taught that Jesus Christ was divine and was sent to earth for the salvation of mankind but that Jesus Christ was not equal to the Father (infinite, primordial origin) and to the Holy Spirit (giver of life). Under Arianism, Christ was instead not consubstantial with God the Father [6] since both the Father and the Son under Arius were made of "like" essence or being (see homoiousia) but not of the same essence or being (see homoousia).[6] Ousia is essence or being, in Eastern Christianity, and is the aspect of God that is completely incomprehensible to mankind and human perception. It is all that subsists by itself and which has not its being in another.[7] God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit all being uncreated.[8] According to the teaching of Arius, the preexistent Logos and thus the incarnate Jesus Christ was a created being; that only the Son was directly created and begotten by God the Father, before ages, but was of a distinct, though similar, essence or substance to the Creator; his opponents argued that this would make Jesus less than God, and that this was heretical.[6] Much of the distinction between the differing factions was over the phrasing that Christ expressed in the New Testament to express submission to God the Father.[6] The theological term for this submission is kenosis. This Ecumenical council declared that Jesus Christ was a distinct being of God in existence or reality (hypostasis), which the Latin fathers translated as persona. Jesus was God in essence, being and or nature (ousia), which the Latin fathers translated as substantia.

Constantine burning Arian books, illustration from a compendium of canon law, ca. 825

Constantine is believed to have exiled those who refused to accept the Nicean creed—Arius himself, the deacon Euzoios, and the Libyan bishops Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais—and also the bishops who signed the creed but refused to join in condemnation of Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nicaea. The Emperor also ordered all copies of the Thalia, the book in which Arius had expressed his teachings, to be burned. However, there is no evidence that his son and ultimate successor, Constantius II, who was an Arian Christian, was exiled.

Although he was committed to maintaining what the church had defined at Nicaea, Constantine was also bent on pacifying the situation and eventually became more lenient toward those condemned and exiled at the council. First he allowed Eusebius of Nicomedia, who was a protégé of his sister, and Theognis to return once they had signed an ambiguous statement of faith. The two, and other friends of Arius, worked for Arius' rehabilitation. At the First Synod of Tyre in AD 335, they brought accusations against Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, the primary opponent of Arius; after this, Constantine had Athanasius banished, since he considered him an impediment to reconciliation. In the same year, the Synod of Jerusalem under Constantine's direction readmitted Arius to communion in AD 336. Arius, however, died on the way to this event in Constantinople. This was the same day Arius' own bishop prayed that if his heresy was to be propagated, the Lord take him in death that night- or better, Arius. Some scholars also suggest that Arius may have been poisoned by his opponents.[9] Eusebius and Theognis remained in the Emperor's favour, and when Constantine, who had been a catechumen much of his adult life, accepted baptism on his deathbed, it was from Eusebius of Nicomedia.

Theological debates

The Council of Nicaea did not end the controversy, as many bishops of the Eastern provinces disputed the homoousios, the central term of the Nicene creed, as it had been used by Paul of Samosata, who had advocated a monarchianist Christology. Both the man and his teaching, including the term homoousios, had been condemned by the Synods of Antioch in 269.

Hence, after Constantine's death in 337, open dispute resumed again. Constantine's son Constantius II, who had become Emperor of the eastern part of the Empire, actually encouraged the Arians and set out to reverse the Nicene creed. His advisor in these affairs was Eusebius of Nicomedia, who had already at the Council of Nicea been the head of the Arian party, who also was made bishop of Constantinople.

Constantius used his power to exile bishops adhering to the Nicene creed, especially Athanasius of Alexandria, who fled to Rome. In 355 Constantius became the sole Emperor and extended his pro-Arian policy toward the western provinces, frequently using force to push through his creed, even exiling Pope Liberius and installing Antipope Felix II.

As debates raged in an attempt to come up with a new formula, three camps evolved among the opponents of the Nicene creed. The first group mainly opposed the Nicene terminology and preferred the term homoiousios (alike in substance) to the Nicene homoousios, while they rejected Arius and his teaching and accepted the equality and coeternality of the persons of the Trinity. Because of this centrist position, and despite their rejection of Arius, they were called "semi-Arians" by their opponents. The second group also avoided invoking the name of Arius, but in large part followed Arius' teachings and, in another attempted compromise wording, described the Son as being like (homoios) the Father. A third group explicitly called upon Arius and described the Son as unlike (anhomoios) the Father. Constantius wavered in his support between the first and the second party, while harshly persecuting the third.

The debates between these groups resulted in numerous synods, among them the Council of Sardica in 343, the Council of Sirmium in 358 and the double Council of Rimini and Seleucia in 359, and no less than fourteen further creed formulas between 340 and 360, leading the pagan observer Ammianus Marcellinus to comment sarcastically: "The highways were covered with galloping bishops." None of these attempts was acceptable to the defenders of Nicene orthodoxy: writing about the latter councils, Saint Jerome remarked that the world "awoke with a groan to find itself Arian."

After Constantius' death in 361, his successor Julian, a devotee of Rome's pagan gods, declared that he would no longer attempt to favor one church faction over another, and allowed all exiled bishops to return; this had the objective of further increasing dissension among Christians. The Emperor Valens, however, revived Constantius' policy and supported the "Homoian" party, exiling bishops and often using force. During this persecution many bishops were exiled to the other ends of the Empire, (e.g., Hilarius of Poitiers to the Eastern provinces). These contacts and the common plight subsequently led to a rapprochement between the Western supporters of the Nicene creed and the homoousios and the Eastern semi-Arians.

Theodosius and the Council of Constantinople

It was not until the co-reigns of Gratian and Theodosius that Arianism was effectively wiped out among the ruling class and elite of the Eastern Empire. Theodosius' wife St Flacilla was instrumental in his campaign to end Arianism. Valens died in the Battle of Adrianople in 378 and was succeeded by Theodosius I, who adhered to the Nicene creed. This allowed for settling the dispute.

Two days after Theodosius arrived in Constantinople, November 24, 380, he expelled the Homoian bishop, Demophilus of Constantinople, and surrendered the churches of that city to Gregory Nazianzus, the leader of the rather small Nicene community there, an act which provoked rioting. Theodosius had just been baptized, by bishop Acholius of Thessalonica, during a severe illness, as was common in the early Christian world. In February he and Gratian published an edict[10] that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (i.e., the Nicene faith), or be handed over for punishment for not doing so.

Although much of the church hierarchy in the East had opposed the Nicene creed in the decades leading up to Theodosius' accession, he managed to achieve unity on the basis of the Nicene creed. In 381, at the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, a group of mainly Eastern bishops assembled and accepted the Nicene Creed of 381,[11] which was supplemented in regard to the Holy Spirit, as well as some other changes: see Comparison between Creed of 325 and Creed of 381. This is generally considered the end of the dispute about the Trinity and the end of Arianism among the Roman, non-Germanic peoples.

Early medieval Germanic kingdoms

However, during the time of Arianism's flowering in Constantinople, the Gothic convert Ulfilas (later the subject of the letter of Auxentius cited above) was sent as a missionary to the Gothic barbarians across the Danube, a mission favored for political reasons by emperor Constantius II. Ulfilas' initial success in converting this Germanic people to an Arian form of Christianity was strengthened by later events. When the Germanic peoples entered the Roman Empire and founded successor-kingdoms in the western part, most had been Arian Christians for more than a century.[citation needed]

Ceiling Mosaic of the Arian Baptistry

The conflict in the 4th century had seen Arian and Nicene factions struggling for control of the Church. In contrast, in the Arian German kingdoms established on the wreckage of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, there were entirely separate Arian and Nicene Churches with parallel hierarchies, each serving different sets of believers. The Germanic elites were Arians, and the majority population was Nicene.[citation needed] Many scholars see the persistence of Germanic Arianism as a strategy that was followed in order to differentiate the Germanic elite from the local inhabitants and their culture and also to maintain the Germanic elite's separate group identity.[citation needed]

Most Germanic tribes were generally tolerant of the Nicene beliefs of their subjects. However, the Vandals tried for several decades to force their Arian beliefs on their North African Nicene subjects, exiling Nicene clergy, dissolving monasteries, and exercising heavy pressure on non-conforming Christians.

By the beginning of the 8th century, these kingdoms had either been conquered by Nicene neighbors (Ostrogoths, Vandals, Burgundians) or their rulers had accepted Nicene Christianity (Visigoths, Lombards).

The Franks were unique among the Germanic peoples in that they entered the empire as pagans and converted to Nicene(Catholic) Christianity directly, guided by their king Clovis.[12]

Remnants in the West

However, much of southeastern Europe and central Europe, including many of the Goths and Vandals respectively, had embraced Arianism (the Visigoths converted to Arian Christianity in 376), which led to Arianism being a religious factor in various wars in the Roman Empire.[13] In the west, organized Arianism survived in North Africa, in Hispania, and parts of Italy until it was finally suppressed in the 6th and 7th centuries (in part due to the advance of Islam). Later, during the Protestant reformation, a religious sect in Poland known as the Polish Brethren were commonly referred to as Arians due to their rejection of the Trinity.

"Arian" as a polemical epithet

In many ways, the conflict around Arian beliefs in the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries helped firmly define the centrality of the Trinity in Nicene Christian theology. As the first major intra-Christian conflict after Christianity's legalization, the struggle between Nicenes and Arians left a deep impression on the institutional memory of Nicene churches.[citation needed]

Archbishop Dmitri of the Orthodox Church in America said Islam is the largest descendant of Arianism today. There is some superficial similarity in Islam's teaching that Jesus was a great prophet, but very distinct from God, although Islam sees Jesus as a human messenger of God without the divine properties that Arianism attributes to Christ[citation needed]. Islam sees itself as a continuation of the Jewish and Christian traditions and reveres many of the same prophets, though Islam denies the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and historical Arians claimed it.[citation needed]

Thus, over the past 1,500 years, some Christians have used the term Arian to refer to those groups that see themselves as worshiping Jesus Christ or respecting his teachings, but do not hold to the Nicene creed. Despite the frequency with which this name is used as a polemical label, there has been no historically continuous survival of Arianism into the modern era.[citation needed]

Other religious movements considered Arian

There have been religious movements holding beliefs that either they, or their opponents, have considered Arian. To quote the Encyclopædia Britannica's article on Arianism: "In modern times some Unitarians are virtually Arians in that they are unwilling either to reduce Christ to a mere human being or to attribute to him a divine nature identical with that of the Father."[14] However, their doctrines cannot be considered representative of traditional Arian doctrines or vice-versa.

A religious movement reputed to practice a form of Arianism (or "Semi-Arianism") are Jehovah's Witnesses.[15] They consider Jesus Christ to be divine and unlike other creatures, but not equal to the one God. And although they are not Trinitarians or Athanasians, they disagree with Arius’ views in many respects. Arius, for example, denied that the Son could really know the Father while Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Son ‘fully knows’ the Father, and also that the Son, as 'the Word who became flesh', is “the one that has explained him.” (Mt 11:27; Joh 1:14, 18) They believe it is vital to come to know God. And although Arius did not accept Athanasius’ theory that the holy spirit was co-equal and of the same substance as the Father, he did consider the spirit to be a person or a high angel.   Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Holy Spirit is not an actual person but rather is God’s divine breath or active force.[16]

See also

References

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Bibliography

Notes

  1. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 33. Anthony F. Beavers, Chronology of the Arian Controversy.
  2. ^ First Council of Constantinople, Canon 1
  3. ^ M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopedia, Volume 7, page 45a.
  4. ^ The letter can be found at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/texts/auxentius.trans.html.
  5. ^ NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils | Christian Classics Ethereal Library
  6. ^ a b c d "The oneness of Essence, the Equality of Divinity, and the Equality of Honor of God the Son with the God the Father." Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky pages 92–95
  7. ^ The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, SVS Press, 1997. (ISBN 0-913836-31-1) James Clarke & Co Ltd, 1991. (ISBN 0-227-67919-9) V Lossky pg50-51
  8. ^ Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky pages 57 As quoted by John Damascene:

    God is unoriginate, unending, eternal, constant, uncreated, unchanging, unalterable, simple, incomplex, bodiless, invisible, intangible, indescribable, without bounds, inaccessible to the mind, uncontainable, incomprehensible, good, righteous, that Creator of all creatures, the almighty Pantocrator.

  9. ^ Edward Gibbons "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", Chapter 21, (1776-88), Jonathan Kirsch, "God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism", 2004, and Charles Freeman, "The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason", 2002.
  10. ^ Sozomen's Church History VII.4
  11. ^ The text of this version of the Nicene creed is available at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.ix.iii.html.
  12. ^ Frassetto, Michael, Encyclopedia of barbarian Europe, (ABC-CLIO, 2003), 128.
  13. ^
    The inhibiting and paralyzing force of superstitious beliefs penetrated to every department of life, and the most primary and elementary activities of society were influenced. War, for example, was not a simple matter of a test of strength and courage, but supernatural matters had to be taken carefully into consideration. When Clovis said of the Goths in southern Gaul, "I take it hard that these Arians should hold a part of the Gauls; let us go with God's aid and conquer them and bring the land under our dominion", [note: see p. 45 (Book II:37)] he was not speaking in a hypocritical or arrogant manner but in real accordance with the religious sentiment of the time. What he meant was that the Goths, being heretics, were at once enemies of the true God and inferior to the orthodox Franks in their supernatural backing. Considerations of duty, strategy, and self-interest all reinforced one another in Clovis's mind. However, it was not always the orthodox side that won. We hear of a battle fought a few years before Gregory became bishop of Tours between king Sigibert and the Huns, [note: Book IV:29] in which the Huns " by the use of magic arts caused various false appearances to arise before their enemies and overcame them decisively. Medieval Study Guide to Gregory of Tours History of the Franks.
  14. ^ "Arianism." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Deluxe Edition. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007.
  15. ^ http://www.ciu.edu/seminary/resources/articles/evangelism/ARIUS.pdf Columbia International University - Daniel Janosik: "ARIUS IS ALIVE" A Comparison between Arian and Jehovah-Witness Christology
  16. ^ Watchtower 1984 9/1 p. 25-30; "Should you believe in the Trinity?" http://www.watchtower.org/e/ti/index.htm

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Wiktionary

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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  1. (Christianity) According to Trinitarian Christians, a Christological heresy. Arianism originates in the teachings of Arius in the early fourth century, which stated Christ was not of the same substance ὁμοουσιας (homoousios) as God the Father, but of a similar substance όμοιουσιας (homoiousios). Supported by nontrinitarian Christian churches.

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

A heresy which arose in the fourth century, and denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

DOCTRINE

First among the doctrinal disputes which troubled Christians after Constantine had recognized the Church in A.D. 313, and the parent of many more during some three centuries, Arianism occupies a large place in ecclesiastical history. It is not a modern form of unbelief, and therefore will appear strange in modern eyes. But we shall better grasp its meaning if we term it an Eastern attempt to rationalize the creed by stripping it of mystery so far as the relation of Christ to God was concerned. In the New Testament and in Church teaching Jesus of Nazareth appears as the Son of God. This name He took to Himself (Matthew 11:27; John 10:36), while the Fourth Gospel declares Him to be the Word (Logos), Who in the beginning was with God and was God, by Whom all things were made. A similar doctrine is laid down by St. Paul, in his undoubtedly genuine Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians. It is reiterated in the Letters of Ignatius, and accounts for Pliny's observation that Christians in their assemblies chanted a hymn to Christ as God. But the question how the Son was related to the Father (Himself acknowledged on all hands to be the one Supreme Deity), gave rise, between the years A.D. 60 and 200, to a number of Theosophic systems, called generally Gnosticism, and having for their authors Basilides, Valentinus, Tatian, and other Greek speculators. Though all of these visited Rome, they had no following in the West, which remained free from controversies of an abstract nature, and was faithful to the creed of its baptism. Intellectual centres were chiefly Alexandria and Antioch, Egyptian or Syrian, and speculation was carried on in Greek. The Roman Church held steadfastly by tradition. Under these circumstances, when Gnostic schools had passed away with their "conjugations" of Divine powers, and "emanations" from the Supreme unknowable God (the "Deep" and the "Silence") all speculation was thrown into the form of an inquiry touching the "likeness" of the Son to His Father and "sameness" of His Essence. Catholics had always maintained that Christ was truly the Son, and truly God. They worshipped Him with divine honours; they would never consent to separate Him, in idea or reality, from the Father, Whose Word, Reason, Mind, He was, and in Whose Heart He abode from eternity. But the technical terms of doctrine were not fully defined; and even in Greek words like essence (ousia), substance (hypostasis), nature (physis), person (hyposopon) bore a variety of meanings drawn from the pre-Christian sects of philosophers, which could not but entail misunderstandings until they were cleared up. The adaptation of a vocabulary employed by Plato and Aristotle to Christian truth was a matter of time; it could not be done in a day; and when accomplished for the Greek it had to be undertaken for the Latin, which did not lend itself readily to necessary yet subtle distinctions. That disputes should spring up even among the orthodox who all held one faith, was inevitable. And of these wranglings the rationalist would take advantage in order to substitute for the ancient creed his own inventions. The drift of all he advanced was this: to deny that in any true sense God could have a Son; as Mohammed tersely said afterwards, "God neither begets, nor is He begotten" (Koran, 112). We have learned to call that denial Unitarianism. It was the ultimate scope of Arian opposition to what Christians had always believed. But the Arian, though he did not come straight down from the Gnostic, pursued a line of argument and taught a view which the speculations of the Gnostic had made familiar. He described the Son as a second, or inferior God, standing midway between the First Cause and creatures; as Himself made out of nothing, yet as making all things else; as existing before the worlds of the ages; and as arrayed in all divine perfections except the one which was their stay and foundation. God alone was without beginning, unoriginate; the Son was originated, and once had not existed. For all that has origin must begin to be.

Such is the genuine doctrine of Arius. Using Greek terms, it denies that the Son is of one essence, nature, or substance with God; He is not consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father, and therefore not like Him, or equal in dignity, or co-eternal, or within the real sphere of Deity. The Logos which St. John exalts is an attribute, Reason, belonging to the Divine nature, not a person distinct from another, and therefore is a Son merely in figure of speech. These consequences follow upon the principle which Arius maintains in his letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, that the Son "is no part of the Ingenerate." Hence the Arian sectaries who reasoned logically were styled Anomoeans: they said that the Son was "unlike" the Father. And they defined God as simply the Unoriginate. They are also termed the Exucontians (ex ouk onton), because they held the creation of the Son to be out of nothing.

But a view so unlike tradition found little favour; it required softening or palliation, even at the cost of logic; and the school which supplanted Arianism form an early date affirmed the likeness, either without adjunct, or in all things, or in substance, of the Son to the Father, while denying His co-equal dignity and co-eternal existence. These men of the Via Media were named Semi-Arians. They approached, in strict argument, to the heretical extreme; but many of them held the orthodox faith, however inconsistently; their difficulties turned upon language or local prejudice, and no small number submitted at length to Catholic teaching. The Semi-Arians attempted for years to invent a compromise between irreconcilable views, and their shifting creeds, tumultuous councils, and worldly devices tell us how mixed and motley a crowd was collected under their banner. The point to be kept in remembrance is that, while they affirmed the Word of God to be everlasting, they imagined Him as having become the Son to create the worlds and redeem mankind. Among the ante-Nicene writers, a certain ambiguity of expression may be detected, outside the school of Alexandria, touching this last head of doctrine. While Catholic teachers held the Monarchia, viz. that there was only one God; and the Trinity, that this Absolute One existed in three distinct subsistences; and the Circuminession, that Father, Word, and Spirit could not be separated, in fact or in thought, from one another; yet an opening was left for discussion as regarded the term "Son," and the period of His "generation" (gennesis). Five ante-Nicene Fathers are especially quoted: Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Hippolytus, and Novatian, whose language appears to involve a peculiar notion of Sonship, as though It did not come into being or were not perfect until the dawn of creation. To these may be added Tertullian and Methodius. Cardinal Newman held that their view, which is found clearly in Tertullian, of the Son existing after the Word, is connected as an antecedent with Arianism. Petavius construed the same expressions in a reprehensible sense; but the Anglican Bishop Bull defended them as orthodox, not without difficulty. Even if metaphorical, such language might give shelter to unfair disputants; but we are not answerable for the slips of teachers who failed to perceive all the consequences of doctrinal truths really held by them. From these doubtful theorizings Rome and Alexandria kept aloof. Origen himself, whose unadvised speculations were charged with the guilt of Arianism, and who employed terms like "the second God," concerning the Logos, which were never adopted by the Church -- this very Origen taught the eternal Sonship of the Word, and was not a Semi-Arian. To him the Logos, the Son, and Jesus of Nazareth were one ever-subsisting Divine Person, begotten of the Father, and, in this way, "subordinate" to the source of His being. He comes forth from God as the creative Word, and so is a ministering Agent, or, from a different point of view, is the First-born of creation. Dionysius of Alexandria (260) was even denounced at Rome for calling the Son a work or creature of God; but he explained himself to the pope on orthodox principles, and confessed the Homoousian Creed.

HISTORY

Paul of Samosata, who was contemporary with Dionysius, and Bishop of Antioch, may be judged the true ancestor of those heresies which relegated Christ beyond the Divine sphere, whatever epithets of deity they allowed Him. The man Jesus, said Paul, was distinct from the Logos, and, in Milton's later language, by merit was made the Son of God. The Supreme is one in Person as in Essence. Three councils held at Antioch (264-268, or 269) condemned and excommunicated the Samosatene. But these Fathers would not accept the Homoousian formula, dreading lest it be taken to signify one material or abstract substance, according to the usage of the heathen philosophies. Associated with Paul, and for years cut off from the Catholic communion, we find the well-known Lucian, who edited the Septuagint and became at last a martyr. From this learned man the school of Antioch drew its inspiration. Eusebius the historian, Eusebius of Nicomedia, and Arius himself, all came under Lucian's influence. Not, therefore, to Egypt and its mystical teaching, but to Syria, where Aristotle flourished with his logic and its tendency to Rationalism, should we look for the home of an aberration which had it finally triumphed, would have anticipated Islam, reducing the Eternal Son to the rank of a prophet, and thus undoing the Christian revelation.

Arius, a Libyan by descent, brought up at Antioch and a school-fellow of Eusebius, afterwards Bishop of Nicomedia, took part (306) in the obscure Meletian schism, was made presbyter of the church called "Baucalis," at Alexandria, and opposed the Sabellians, themselves committed to a view of the Trinity which denied all real distinctions in the Supreme. Epiphanius describes the heresiarch as tall, grave, and winning; no aspersion on his moral character has been sustained; but there is some possibility of personal differences having led to his quarrel with the patriarch Alexander whom, in public synod, he accused of teaching that the Son was identical with the Father (319). The actual circumstances of this dispute are obscure; but Alexander condemned Arius in a great assembly, and the latter found a refuge with Eusebius, the Church historian, at Caesarea. Political or party motives embittered the strife. Many bishops of Asia Minor and Syria took up the defence of their "fellow-Lucianist," as Arius did not hesitate to call himself. Synods in Palestine and Bithynia were opposed to synods in Egypt. During several years the argument raged; but when, by his defeat of Licinius (324), Constantine became master of the Roman world, he determined on restoring ecclesiastical order in the East, as already in the West he had undertaken to put down the Donatists at the Council of Arles. Arius, in a letter to the Nicomedian prelate, had boldly rejected the Catholic faith. But Constantine, tutored by this worldly-minded man, sent from Nicomedia to Alexander a famous letter, in which he treated the controversy as an idle dispute about words and enlarged on the blessings of peace. The emperor, we should call to mind, was only a catechumen, imperfectly acquainted with Greek, much more incompetent in theology, and yet ambitious to exercise over the Catholic Church a dominion resembling that which, as Pontifex Maximus, he wielded over the pagan worship. From this Byzantine conception (labelled in modern terms Erastianism) we must derive the calamities which during many hundreds of years set their mark on the development of Christian dogma. Alexander could not give way in a matter so vitally important. Arius and his supporters would not yield. A council was, therefore, assembled in Nicaea, in Bithynia, which has ever been counted the first ecumenical, and which held its sittings from the middle of June, 325. (See FIRST COUNCIL OF NICAEA). It is commonly said that Hosius of Cordova presided. The Pope, St. Silvester, was represented by his legates, and 318 Fathers attended, almost all from the East. Unfortunately, the acts of the Council are not preserved. The emperor, who was present, paid religious deference to a gathering which displayed the authority of Christian teaching in a manner so remarkable. From the first it was evident that Arius could not reckon upon a large number of patrons among the bishops. Alexander was accompanied by his youthful deacon, the ever-memorable Athanasius who engaged in discussion with the heresiarch himself, and from that moment became the leader of the Catholics during well-nigh fifty years. The Fathers appealed to tradition against the innovators, and were passionately orthodox; while a letter was received from Eusebius of Nicomedia, declaring openly that he would never allow Christ to be of one substance with God. This avowal suggested a means of discriminating between true believers and all those who, under that pretext, did not hold the Faith handed down. A creed was drawn up on behalf of the Arian party by Eusebius of Caesarea in which every term of honour and dignity, except the oneness of substance, was attributed to Our Lord. Clearly, then, no other test save the Homoousion would prove a match for the subtle ambiguities of language that, then as always, were eagerly adopted by dissidents from the mind of the Church. A formula had been discovered which would serve as a test, though not simply to be found in Scripture, yet summing up the doctrine of St. John, St. Paul, and Christ Himself, "I and the Father are one". Heresy, as St. Ambrose remarks, had furnished from its own scabbard a weapon to cut off its head. The "consubstantial" was accepted, only thirteen bishops dissenting, and these were speedily reduced to seven. Hosius drew out the conciliar statements, to which anathemas were subjoined against those who should affirm that the Son once did not exist, or that before He was begotten He was not, or that He was made out of nothing, or that He was of a different substance or essence from the Father, or was created or changeable. Every bishop made this declaration except six, of whom four at length gave way. Eusebius of Nicomedia withdrew his opposition to the Nicene term, but would not sign the condemnation of Arius. By the emperor, who considered heresy as rebellion, the alternative proposed was subscription or banishment; and, on political grounds, the Bishop of Nicomedia was exiled not long after the council, involving Arius in his ruin. The heresiarch and his followers underwent their sentence in Illyria. But these incidents, which might seem to close the chapter, proved a beginning of strife, and led on to the most complicated proceedings of which we read in the fourth century. While the plain Arian creed was defended by few, those political prelates who sided with Eusebius carried on a double warfare against the term "consubstantial", and its champion, Athanasius. This greatest of the Eastern Fathers had succeeded Alexander in the Egyptian patriarchate (326). He was not more than thirty years of age; but his published writings, antecedent to the Council, display, in thought and precision, a mastery of the issues involved which no Catholic teacher could surpass. His unblemished life, considerate temper, and loyalty to his friends made him by no means easy to attack. But the wiles of Eusebius, who in 328 recovered Constantine's favour, were seconded by Asiatic intrigues, and a period of Arian reaction set in. Eustathius of Antioch was deposed on a charge of Sabellianism (331), and the Emperor sent his command that Athanasius should receive Arius back into communion. The saint firmly declined. In 325 the heresiarch was absolved by two councils, at Tyre and Jerusalem, the former of which deposed Athanasius on false and shameful grounds of personal misconduct. He was banished to Trier, and his sojourn of eighteen months in those parts cemented Alexandria more closely to Rome and the Catholic West. Meanwhile, Constantia, the Emperor's sister, had recommended Arius, whom she thought an injured man, to Constantine's leniency. Her dying words affected him, and he recalled the Lybian, extracted from him a solemn adhesion to the Nicene faith, and ordered Alexander, Bishop of the Imperial City, to give him Communion in his own church (336). Arius openly triumphed; but as he went about in parade, the evening before this event was to take place, he expired from a sudden disorder, which Catholics could not help regarding as a judgment of heaven, due to the bishop's prayers. His death, however, did not stay the plague. Constantine now favoured none but Arians; he was baptized in his last moments by the shifty prelate of Nicomedia; and he bequeathed to his three sons (337) an empire torn by dissensions which his ignorance and weakness had aggravated.

Constantius, who nominally governed the East, was himself the puppet of his empress and the palace-ministers. He obeyed the Eusebian faction; his spiritual director, Valens, Bishop of Mursa, did what in him lay to infect Italy and the West with Arian dogmas. The term "like in substance", Homoiousion, which had been employed merely to get rid of the Nicene formula, became a watchword. But as many as fourteen councils, held between 341 and 360, in which every shade of heretical subterfuge found expression, bore decisive witness to the need and efficacy of the Catholic touchstone which they all rejected. About 340, an Alexandrian gathering had defended its archbishop in an epistle to Pope Julius. On the death of Constantine, and by the influence of that emperor's son and namesake, he had been restored to his people. But the young prince passed away, and in 341 the celebrated Antiochene Council of the Dedication a second time degraded Athanasius, who now took refuge in Rome. There he spent three years. Gibbon quotes and adopts "a judicious observation" of Wetstein which deserves to be kept always in mind. From the fourth century onwards, remarks the German scholar, when the Eastern Churches were almost equally divided in eloquence and ability between contending sections, that party which sought to overcome made its appearance in the Vatican, cultivated the Papal majesty, conquered and established the orthodox creed by the help of the Latin bishops. Therefore it was that Athanasius repaired to Rome. A stranger, Gregory, usurped his place. The Roman Council proclaimed his innocence. In 343, Constans, who ruled over the West from Illyria to Britain, summoned the bishops to meet at Sardica in Pannonia. Ninety-four Latin, seventy Greek or Eastern, prelates began the debates; but they could not come to terms, and the Asiatics withdrew, holding a separate and hostile session at Philippopolis in Thrace. It has been justly said that the Council of Sardica reveals the first symptoms of discord which, later on, produced the unhappy schism of East and West. But to the Latins this meeting, which allowed of appeals to Pope Julius, or the Roman Church, seemed an epilogue which completed the Nicene legislation, and to this effect it was quoted by Innocent I in his correspondence with the bishops of Africa.

Having won over Constans, who warmly took up his cause, the invincible Athanasius received from his Oriental and Semi-Arian sovereign three letters commanding, and at length entreating his return to Alexandria (349). The factious bishops, Ursacius and Valens, retracted their charges against him in the hands of Pope Julius; and as he travelled home, by way of Thrace, Asia Minor, and Syria, the crowd of court-prelates did him abject homage. These men veered with every wind. Some, like Eusebius of Caesarea, held a Platonizing doctrine which they would not give up, though they declined the Arian blasphemies. But many were time-servers, indifferent to dogma. And a new party had arisen, the strict and pious Homoiousians, not friends of Athanasius, nor willing to subscribe to the Nicene terms, yet slowly drawing nearer to the true creed and finally accepting it. In the councils which now follow these good men play their part. However, when Constans died (350), and his Semi-Arian brother was left supreme, the persecution of Athanasius redoubled in violence. By a series of intrigues the Western bishops were persuaded to cast him off at Arles, Milan, Ariminum. It was concerning this last council (359) that St. Jerome wrote, "the whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian". For the Latin bishops were driven by threats and chicanery to sign concessions which at no time represented their genuine views. Councils were so frequent that their dates are still matter of controversy. Personal issues disguised the dogmatic importance of a struggle which had gone on for thirty years. The Pope of the day, Liberius, brave at first, undoubtedly orthodox, but torn from his see and banished to the dreary solitude of Thrace, signed a creed, in tone Semi-Arian (compiled chiefly from one of Sirmium), renounced Athanasius, but made a stand against the so-called "Homoean" formulae of Ariminum. This new party was led by Acacius of Caesarea, an aspiring churchman who maintained that he, and not St. Cyril of Jerusalem, was metropolitan over Palestine. The Homoeans, a sort of Protestants, would have no terms employed which were not found in Scripture, and thus evaded signing the "Consubstantial". A more extreme set, the "Anomoeans", followed Aetius, were directed by Eunomius, held meetings at Antioch and Sirmium, declared the Son to be "unlike" the Father, and made themselves powerful in the last years of Constantius within the palace. George of Cappadocia persecuted the Alexandrian Catholics. Athanasius retired into the desert among the solitaries. Hosius had been compelled by torture to subscribe a fashionable creed. When the vacillating Emperor died (361), Julian, known as the Apostate, suffered all alike to return home who had been exiled on account of religion. A momentous gathering, over which Athanasius presided, in 362, at Alexandria, united the orthodox Semi-Arians with himself and the West. Four years afterwards fifty-nine Macedonian, i.e., hitherto anti-Nicene, prelates gave in their submission to Pope Liberius. But the Emperor Valens, a fierce heretic, still laid the Church waste.

However, the long battle was now turning decidedly in favour of Catholic tradition. Western bishops, like Hilary of Poitiers and Eusebius of Vercellae banished to Asia for holding the Nicene faith, were acting in unison with St. Basil, the two St. Gregories [of Nyssa and Nazianzus --Ed.], and the reconciled Semi-Arians. As an intellectual movement the heresy had spent its force. Theodosius, a Spaniard and a Catholic, governed the whole Empire. Athanasius died in 373; but his cause triumphed at Constantinople, long an Arian city, first by the preaching of St. Gregory Nazianzen, then in the Second General Council (381), at the opening of which Meletius of Antioch presided. This saintly man had been estranged from the Nicene champions during a long schism; but he made peace with Athanasius, and now, in company of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, represented a moderate influence which won the day. No deputies appeared from the West. Meletius died almost immediately. St. Gregory Nazianzen, who took his place, very soon resigned. A creed embodying the Nicene was drawn up by St. Gregory of Nyssa, but it is not the one that is chanted at Mass, the latter being due, it is said, to St. Epiphanius and the Church of Jerusalem. The Council became ecumenical by acceptance of the Pope and the ever-orthodox Westerns. From this moment Arianism in all its forms lost its place within the Empire. Its developments among the barbarians were political rather than doctrinal. Ulphilas (311-388), who translated the Scriptures into Maeso-Gothic, taught the Goths across the Danube an Homoean theology; Arian kingdoms arose in Spain, Africa, Italy. The Gepidae, Heruli, Vandals, Alans, and Lombards received a system which they were as little capable of understanding as they were of defending, and the Catholic bishops, the monks, the sword of Clovis, the action of the Papacy, made an end of it before the eighth century. In the form which it took under Arius, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Eunomius, it has never been revived. Individuals, among them are Milton and Sir Isasc Newton, were perhaps tainted with it. But the Socinian tendency out of which Unitarian doctrines have grown owes nothing to the school of Antioch or the councils which opposed Nicaea. Neither has any Arian leader stood forth in history with a character of heroic proportions. In the whole story there is but one single hero -- the undaunted Athanasius -- whose mind was equal to the problems, as his great spirit to the vicissitudes, a question on which the future of Christianity depended.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.

Simple English

Arianism is a form of Christianity. It has come from Arius. Arianism has stopped being practiced today, but was important during the Roman era, into the Middle Ages.

Arianism opposed the dogma of the holy trinity

Belief

The main difference between the beliefs of Arianism and other main Christian denominations is that the Arians did not believe in the Holy Trinity, which is a way that other Christian churches use to explain God. The information that we have today comes from the writing of people who were against Arianism and said the beliefs were wrong.

  • Only God the Father is truly God. He alone is not-born, and is eternal. He does not change.
  • God did not create the world by himself. He had help from something called Logos (The word). This Logos was created to create the world. This is God's 'communication with the world.
  • God's communication with the world is known as the "Son of God" or the "Christ". The Son of God existed before he helped his Father make man. He is the perfect image of God the Father. There is one exception though: Unlike God the Father, he was created (from nothing) by the will of the Father. This happened at the beginning of time. Therefore, he is not eternal. There was a time when he was not there. In the same way, his power, his wisdom and his knowledge are limited.

Between the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and the First Council of Constantinople in the year 381 there were no less than 18 different Creeds used by Arianists.

Arianism today

In the 16th century there was again a movement against the belief in Trinity. A well-known person teaching this was Fausto Sozzini (1539-1604). Another one was Ferenc Dávid (1510s - 1579). These movements developed into what is called Unitarianism today. Unitarians believe that there is only one person in god, not the three-in-one dogma of trinity. Some of the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses are close to some of the things Arians believed. It is different only in that Arians believed the holy spirit is a person and Jehovah's Witnesses teach it is not a person, but a force God uses to do His will. It would however be false to call them Arians, as they reject many Arian teachings. Mormons and Oneness Pentecostalism also reject the Trinity but for different reasons other than Arianism.


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