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3rd Century...Arius

Arius (AD 250 or 256 – 336) was a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt. His teachings about the nature of the Godhead, which emphasized the Father's Divinity over the Son, and his opposition to the Athanasian or Trinitarian Christology, made him a controversial figure in the First Council of Nicea, convened by Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. After Emperor Constantine legalized and formalized the Christianity of the time in the Roman Empire, the newly recognized Catholic Church sought to unify theology. Trinitarian partisans, including Athanasius, used Arius and Arianism as epithets to represent disagreement with co-equal Trinitarianism, a Christology representing the Father and Son (Jesus of Nazareth) as "of one essence" (consubstantial) and coeternal.

Although virtually all positive writings on Arius' theology have been suppressed or destroyed, negative writings describe Arius' theology as one in which there was a time before the Son of God, where only God the Father existed. Despite concerted opposition, 'Arian', or nontrinitarian Christian churches persisted throughout Europe and North Africa, in various Gothic and Germanic kingdoms, until suppressed by military conquest or voluntary royal conversion between the fifth and seventh centuries.

Although "Arianism" suggests that Arius was the originator of the teaching that bears his name, the debate over the Son’s precise relationship to the Father did not begin with him. This subject had been discussed for decades before his advent; Arius merely intensified the controversy and carried it to a Church-wide audience, where other "Arians" such as Eusebius of Nicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea would prove much more influential in the long run. In fact, some later "Arians" disavowed that moniker, claiming not to have been familiar with the man or his specific teachings. However, because the conflict between Arius and his foes brought the issue to the theological forefront, the doctrine he proclaimed—though not originated by him—is generally labeled as "his".
source: Wikipedia
The birth date for Arius, the North African priest who gave his name to one of Christianity's most troublesome schisms, is uncertain. He seems to have been born in Libya. He was in all probability a pupil of Lucien of Antioch. During the bishopric of Peter of Alexandria (300-311) Arius was made a deacon in that city and began the stormy pastoral career which is known to history. He was in rapid succession excommunicated for his association with the Melitians, restored by Achillas, Bishop of Alexandria (311-12), and given priestly orders and the church of Baucalis. Sometime between 318 and 323 Arius came into conflict with Bishop Alexander over the nature of Christ. In a confusing series of synods a truce was attempted between adherents of Alexander and followers of Arius; in March of 324 Alexander convened a provincial synod which acknowledged the truce but anathematized Arius. Arius responded with his publication of Thalia (which exists only as it is quoted in refutation by Athanasius) and by repudiating the truce. In February, 325, Arius was then condemned at a synod in Antioch. The Emperor Constantine was intervening by this time, and it was he who called the first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicaea. This council met on May 20, 325, and subsequently condemned Arius and his teaching. Present in the entourage of Alexander at this council was Athanasius. He took little part in the affairs of the Council of Nicaea, but when he became Bishop of Alexandria in 328, he was to become the unremitting foe of Arius and Arianism and the unflagging champion of the Nicene formula.

Following his condemnation Arius was banished to to Illyricum. There he continued to write, teach, and appeal to an ever broadening circle of political and ecclesiastical adherents of Arianism. Around 332 or 333 Constantine opened direct contact with Arius, and in 335 the two met at Nicomedia. There Arius presented a confession which Constantine considered sufficiently orthodox to allow for the reconsideration of Arius's case. Therefore, following the dedication of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem the Synod of Jerusalem declared for the readmittance of Arius to communion even as he lay dying in Constantiople. Since Arian views were being advanced by many active bishops and members of the court, and Arius himself had ceased to play a vital role in the controversy, his death in 335 or 336 did nothing to diminish the furor in the church. Instead of resolving the issues, the Council of Nicaea had launched an empire-wide Christological debate by its condemnation of Arius.

An observer in that day might well have thought Arianism was going to triumph in the church. Beginning with Constantius the court was often Arian. Five times Athanasius of Alexandria was driven into exile, interrupting his long episcopate. A series of synods repudiated the Nicene symbol in various ways, Antioch in 341, Arles in 353; and in 355 Liberius of Rome and Ossius of Cordoba were exiled and a year later Hilary of Poitier was sent to Phrygia. In 360 in Constantinople all earlier creeds were disavowed and the term substance (ousia) was outlawed. The Son was simply declared to be "like the Father who begot him."

The orthodox counterattack on Arianism pointed out that the Arian theology reduced Christ to a demigod and in effect reintroduced polytheism into Christianity, since Christ was worshiped among Arians as among the orthodox. But in the long run the most telling argument against Arianism was Athanasius's constant soteriological battle cry that only God, very God, truly God Incarnate could reconcile and redeem fallen man to holy God. It was the thorough work of the Cappadocian Fathers, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, which brought the final resolution that proved theologically acceptable to the church. They divided the concept of substance (ousia) from the concept of person (hypostasis) and thus allowed the orthodox defenders of the original Nicene formula and the later moderate or semi-Arian party to unite in an understanding of God as one substance and three persons. Christ therefore was of one substance with the Father (homoousion) but a distinct person. With this understanding the Council of Constantinople in 381 was able to reaffirm the Nicene Creed. The able Emperor Theodosius I threw himself on the side of orthodoxy and Arianism began to wane in the empire.
source: BELIEVE Religious Information Source
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