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4th Century...First Attempt at Resolving the Arian Heresy at the Council of Nicaea - 325

It was not until the end of the seventh century that orthodoxy was to finally absorb Arianism. Yet Arianism has been reborn in the modern era in the form of extreme Unitarianism, and the Jehovah's Witnesses regard Arius as a forerunner of C. T. Russell.
Nothing in Christianity is more contentious than attempting to define the nature of the Christian Trinity and exactly how Jesus relates to God without Christianity itself being labeled a polytheistic than a monotheistic religion. Even today some who call themselves Christians are uncomfortable considering Jesus equal to God and early Christians were no different. Arius, a priest, was one of those early Christians who had difficulty considering Jesus as divine.

Arius was a thoroughgoing Greek rationalist. He inherited the almost universally held Logos Christology of the East (i.e., believing in the dual nature of Christ, 100% God, 100% Human as opposed to Orthodox view of Christ as both three and one at the same time). He labored in Alexandria, the center for Origenist teachings on the subordination of the Son to the Father. He blended this heritage into a rationalist Christology that lost the balance Origen had maintained in his subordinationist theology by his insistence on the eternal generation of the Son.

The guard against the error of Arius and the Arianism erected by the symbol and anathemas adopted by the Council of Nicaea serve as an outline of Arius's fundamental position.

Nicaea's "in one Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only-begotten, that is from the substance of the Father" was to offset Arius's central assertion that God was immutable, unique, unknowable, only one. Therefore Arians felt no substance of God could in any way be communicated or shared with any other being. The council's "true God from true God, begotten not made" set aside Arius's contention that, since God was immutable and unknowable, Christ had to be a created being, made out of nothing by God, first in the created order certainly, but of it. This limited the concept of the preexistence of Christ even while adapting the dominant Logos Christology to Arianism. The Logos, first born, created of God, was incarnate in the Christ but, asserted Arius, "there was when he was not."

Nicaea's "of one substance with the Father" made the Greek term homoousios the catchword of the orthodox. Arianism developed two parties, one of which felt Christ was of a substance like the Father (homoiousios). A more extreme wing insisted that as a created being Christ was unlike the Father in substance (anomoios). Arius himself would have belonged to the first or more moderate party.

The council's anathemas were extended to all those who claimed "there was once when he was not"; "before his generation he was not"; "he was made out of nothing"; "the Son of God is of another subsistence or substance"; and "the Son of God [is] created or alterable or mutable." The last anathema attacked another Arian teaching. Arius and subsequent Arians had taught that Christ grew, changed, matured in his understanding of the divine plan according to the Scriptures, and therefore could not be part of the unchanging God. He was not God the Son; rather, He was simply given the title Son of God as an honor.

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.

The long struggle with Arianism was not over yet, however, for Ulfilas, famous missionary to the Germanic tribes, had accepted the Homoean statement of Constantinople of 360. Ulfilas taught the similarity of the Son to the Father and the total subordination of the Holy Spirit. He taught the Visigoths north of the Danube, and they in turn carried this semi-Arianism back into Italy. The Vandals were taught by Visigoth priests and in 409 carried the same semi-Arianism across the Pyrenees into Spain. It was not until the end of the seventh century that orthodoxy was to finally absorb Arianism. Yet Arianism has been reborn in the modern era in the form of extreme Unitarianism, and the Jehovah's Witnesses regard Arius as a forerunner of C. T. Russell.
source: BELIEVE Religious Information Source
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