Athanasius invented Arianism.

Purpose of this article

The ‘Arian’ Controversy began in the year 318; only five years after the end of the “great persecution.” It began with a dispute between Arius, who was in charge of one of the churches in Alexandria, and his bishop Alexander. That Controversy continued until Emperor Theodosius made an end to it in 380; 62 years later.

The term ‘Arian” is derived from the name Arius. This implies that Arius was the founder and teacher of ‘Arianism’, which dominated the church for most of the fourth century. However, “in the first few decades of the present (20th) century … seminally important work was … done in the sorting-out of the chronology of the controversy, and in the isolation of a hard core of reliable primary documents.” (RW, 11-12) Consequently, “the four decades since 1960 have produced much revisionary scholarship on the Trinitarian and Christological disputes of the fourth century.” (LA, 11) On this basis, this article shows that Arius, in himself, was of no great significance, and continues to explain why it is called the ‘Arian’ Controversy:

Summary

The First Seven Years

Arius was of some significance during the first 7 years of the Controversy until the Nicene Council in 325 decidedly rejected his theology. However, his importance was limited. He was not the founder or leader of ‘Arianism’:

“Arius was part of a wider theological trajectory; Many of his ideas were opposed by others in this trajectory: he neither originated the trajectory nor uniquely exemplified it.” (LA, 2)

“Many of the issues raised by the controversy were under lively discussion before Arius and Alexander publicly clashed” (RH, 52). Arius “was the spark that started the explosion. But in himself he was of no great significance.” (RH, xvii)

“Many of Arius’ earliest supporters appear to have rallied to him because they, like him, opposed Alexander’s theology” (LA, 14).

The Next 55 Years

During the next 55 years of the ‘Arian Controversy’, Arius and his theology were no longer of any significance. The Controversy of those 55 years was not caused by Arius. It was caused by the inclusion in the Nicene Creed of “new terms borrowed from the pagan philosophy of the day.” (RH, 846) The Controversy revolved specifically around the term homoousios, meaning “same substance.” This was a new and different dispute. As discussed in another article:

The Homo-ousians, with Athanasius on the forefront, defending the term against the anti-Nicene majority, argued that the Son’s substance is identical to the Father’s.

The homo-i-ousians claimed that His substance is similar to the Father’s, but not identical.

The hetero-ousians (the Neo-Arians) said that the Son’s substance is different from the Father’s.

The homo-ians refused to talk about God’s substance because the Bible does not say anything about it.

The point is that “Arius’ own theology is of little importance in understanding the major debates of the rest of the century” (after Nicaea) (LA, 56-57):

“Arius’ role in ‘Arianism’ was not that of the founder of a sect. It was not his individual teaching that dominated the mid-century eastern Church.” (RW, 165)

“Those who suspected or openly repudiated the decisions of Nicaea had little in common but this hostility … certainly not a loyalty to the teaching of Arius as an individual theologian.” (RW, 233)

Athanasius invented Arianism.

So, if the word “Arian” is derived from Arius’ name, and if Arius “in himself … was of no great significance” (RH, xvii), why is it called the ‘Arian Controversy’? The reason is that, while the anti-Nicenes sometimes accused Athanasius and the Nicene Creed of Sabellianism, Athanasius invented the term ‘Arian’ “to tar” his opponents with the name of another theology that was already then formally rejected by the church:

“’Arianism’ as a coherent system, founded by a single great figure and sustained by his disciples, is a fantasy … based on the polemic of Nicene writers, above all Athanasius.” (RW, 82)

But, since Athanasius’ opponents were NOT followers of Arius:

“Theologians who criticized the Creed of Nicaea had very diverse attitudes to Arius himself.” (RW, 247)

‘Arianism’ is a serious misnomer.

Since the term ‘Arianism’ implies “a coherent system, founded by a single great figure and sustained by his disciples” (RW, 82), Hanson concludes that “the expression ‘the Arian Controversy’ is a serious misnomer” (RH, xvii-xviii):

“This controversy is mistakenly called Arian.” (LA, 13)

“If Athanasius’ account does shape our understanding, we risk misconceiving the nature of the fourth-century crisis.” (RW, 234)

– END OF SUMMARY –


Authors / Sources

This article series is based largely on the books of three world-class scholars who are regarded as specialists in the fourth-century Arian Controversy, namely:

RH = Bishop RPC Hanson
The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God –

The Arian Controversy 318-381, 1987

RW = Archbishop Rowan Williams
Arius: Heresy and Tradition, 2002/1987

LA = Lewis Ayres
Nicaea and its legacy, 2004

Ayres is a Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology

Little of Arius’ writings survived.

Arius’ Own Writings

“As far as his own writings go, we have no more than three letters, (and) a few fragments of another” (RH, 5-6). The three are:

      1. The confession of faith Arius presented to Alexander of Alexandria,
      2. His letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, and
      3. The confession he submitted to the emperor. (RH, 5-6; RW, 95)

The Thalia

“The Thalia is Arius’ only known theological work” (RH, 10) but “we do not possess a single complete and continuous text.” (RW, 62) We only have extracts from it in the writings of Arius’ enemies, “mostly from the pen of Athanasius of Alexandria, his bitterest and most prejudiced enemy.” (RH, 6)

Why did so little survive?

If Arius was such an important person that the whole Fourth Century Controversy was named after him, why did so few of his writings survive?

Constantine destroyed Arius’ writings.

The usual explanation is that, a few years after the Nicene Council in 325, when Emperor Constantine thought that Arius threatened to split the church, he gave orders that all copies of the Thalia be burned so that “nothing will be left even to remind anyone of him.” He even commanded that those who do not immediately destroy Arius’ writings must be put to death (Constantine’s Edict)1Fourthcentury.com. 23 January 2010.

Arius was not a great theologian.

But that is not the real reason. The church remained ‘Arian’ for about 55 years after the Nicene Council. If Arius had that much support that his teachings would continue to dominate the church for another 55 years, then his supporters would have kept copies of his writings despite Constantine’s severe warnings.

The real reason is that Arius was not a great theologian and that not even his fellow ‘Arians’ regarded his writings as worth preserving. For example:

“It may be doubted … whether Arius ever wrote any but the most ephemeral works.” (RH, 6)

“The people of his day, whether they agreed with him or not, did not regard him (Arius) as a particularly significant writer.” (RH, xvii)

“He did not write anything worth preserving.” (RH, xvii-xviii)

The Arian Controversy had two phases.

To explain Arius’ relevance in the Arian Controversy, we must realize that the events of the Nicene Council in the year 325 divided the Arian Controversy into two parts:

The first phase focused on Arius.

The first phase began around AD 318 in Alexandria with a dispute between Presbyter Arius and his bishop Alexander.  After this dispute had spread to some African regions, Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 to bring an end to the controversy. This phase came to an end when the Council of Nicaea discussed and very soon rejected Arius’ theology:

“It became evident very early on (during the council meeting) that the condemnation of Arius was practically inevitable.” (RW, 68)

The second phase focused on Homoousios.

Thereafter, however, the council meeting continued and became a dispute between the two other parties at Nicaea over how the creed must be formulated. As Eusebius of Caesarea explained, the minority party of Alexander of Alexandria, because they were protected by the emperor, was able to insert “new terms borrowed from the pagan philosophy of the day” (RH, 846) (substance – ousia, same substance – homoousion, and hypostasis) into the Creed against the will of the majority:

“The decisions of Nicaea were really the work of a minority.” 2Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd Ed 1963, p 41

The reformed website Bible.ca states: “We will grant … that a majority opposed the Nicene creed. … The majority who opposed the creed were not aligned with Arius!”

These terms “borrowed from the pagan philosophy” were only infrequently heard in debates before Nicaea. They were never before used in any Christian profession of faith. Since they were key words in Greek philosophy, they created a new and different problem and became the main focus of the Controversy during the second and main phase of the Arian Controversy that continued after Nicaea for more than 50 years.

The radical words of Nicaea became in turn a new set of formulae to be defended” (RW, 236).

Williams, as a Trinitarian, accepts these words but he admits that these words were not used before Nicaea and they are an untraditional innovation:

“It was … impossible … to pretend that the lost innocence of pre-Nicene trinitarian language could be restored. … to reject all innovation was simply not a real option; and thus the rejection of homoousios purely and simply as unscriptural or untraditional could no longer be sustained.” (RW, 234-5)

This second phase lasted for a further 55 years after Nicaea. The point is that, in this second phase, the controversy was now no longer about Arius’ theology. Arius was now irrelevant.

Homoousios divided the church into several sides.

Arius was irrelevant in the second and main phase of the Arian Controversy. During that phase there was no such thing as a single Arian movement. While the first phase of the Controversy focused on the dispute between Arius and Alexander, the 55 years of the second phase became a dispute between several different views of the ontological relationship between the Father and the Son:`

The homo-ousians were the pro-Nicenes. They accepted the statement in the Nicene Creed that the Son is homoousios (of the same substance) as the Father. But there were two camps:

People like bishop Damasis of Rome thought that homoousios means that Father and Son are one single Reality (Person).

People like Basil of Caesarea understood that Father and Son are two distinct Realities. (See – Meletian Schism)

The anti-Nicenes were divided as follows:

The homo-i-ousians claimed that the Son’s substance is similar to the substance of the Father but not the same.

The hetero-ousians said that the substance of the Son is different from the Father’s. This was also Arius’ view but Heterousianism was significantly different from Arius’ theology.

The homoians (homo-eans) said that the Son is like the Father but rejected all uses of the word ousia (substance), including homo-ousios and homoi-ousios because the Bible does not say anything about God’s substance. For example:

The Homoeans made “attempts in the credal statements of conservative synods in the 350s’ to bracket the whole Nicene discussion by refusing to allow ousia-terms of any kind into professions of faith” (RW, 234).

Arius and Athanasius were the extremists.

Arius’ theology approximated that of the hetero-ousians. But the homo-i-ousians and the homo-ians dominated in the years after Nicaea. For example, several councils were held in which homo-i-ousian or homo-ian creeds were accepted to replace the Nicene Creed (e.g., the Long Lines Creed). In the mid-fourth century, the anti-Nicenes were the “mainstream Christians” and regarded both Athanasius and Arius as extremists:

“The very wide spectrum of non-Nicene believers thought of themselves as mainstream Christians, and regarded Athanasius and his allies as isolated extremists – though increasingly they also looked on the more aggressive anti-Nicenes (Aetius, Eunomius, and the like) as no less alien to the mainstream of Catholic tradition.” (RW, 82)

In the Second Phase,
Arius was irrelevant.

So, Arius was important in the first 7 years of the Controversy, but in the second and main part of the Controversy, which raged for another 55 years, the focus was on the new words from pagan philosophy. In this phase, Arius was irrelevant. The following is further evidence of this:

His theology was irrelevant.

“Arius’ own theology is of little importance in understanding the major debates of the rest of the century.” (LA, 56-57)

“Those who suspected or openly repudiated the decisions of Nicaea … certainly (did not have) a loyalty to the teaching of Arius as an individual theologian” (RW, 233).

The so-called ‘Arians’ opposed Arius.

“Arius was suspect in the eyes of the Lucianists and their neo-Arian successors.” (RW, 234)

“Arianism (was) the … long-lasting hostility to or unease with Nicaea among those who would have found the Thalia puzzling and none too congenial” (RW, 167).

“Holger Strutwolf (1999) … concludes that Eusebius initially misunderstood Arius as saying something similar to himself, and then distanced himself more and more from the Alexandrian as he realized his error, while still opposing the theology … advanced by Alexander” (RW, 261).

The so-called ‘Arians’ never quoted Arius.

“The Arians could and did appeal to great names in the past … but not Arius!” (RH, 828).

“We have no knowledge of later Arian use of the Thalia [Arius’ book] … which suggests that it was not to the fore in the debates of the mid-century.” (RW, 65)

“He may have written a lot of works … but (not even) … his supporters … thought them worth preserving. Those who follow his theological tradition seldom or never quote him.” (RH, xvii)

Bishops did not support Arius; they opposed Alexander.

Arius was supported by several bishops; not because they agreed with Arius, but because they opposed also Alexander:

“Many of Arius’ earliest supporters appear to have rallied to him because they, like him, opposed Alexander’s theology” (LA, 14).

“Arius gained support from some bishops …  Although these supporters may have been wary of some aspects of Arius’ theology … they joined in opposition to Alexander.” (LA, 17)

Eusebius of Caesarea “thought the theology of Alexander a greater menace than that of Arius.” (RW, 173)

Arius was not the leader of the ‘Arians’.

“We are not to think of Arius as dominating and directing a single school of thought to which all his allies belonged.” (RW, 171)

“Those who suspected or openly repudiated the decisions of Nicaea had little in common but this hostility … certainly not a loyalty to the teaching of Arius as an individual theologian.” (RW, 233)

“The bishops at Antioch in 341 … did not look on him as a factional leader, or ascribe any individual authority to him.” (RW, 82-83, cf. 166)

“Arius … was not an obvious hero for the enemies of Nicaea.” (RW, 166)

Arius was an academic.

“Arius, like his great Alexandrian predecessors, is essentially an ‘academic’.” (RW, 87)

“He (Arius) is not a theologian of consensus, but a notably individual intellect.” (RW, 178)

He did not leave behind a school of disciples.

“Arius evidently made converts to his views … but he left no school of disciples.” (RW, 233)

“Arius’ role in ‘Arianism’ was not that of the founder of a sect. It was not his individual teaching that dominated the mid-century eastern Church.” (RW, 165)

“The later ‘neo-Arians’ of the mid-century traced their theological ancestry back to the Lucianists rather than Arius” (RW, 31).

Arius was part of a wider theological trajectory.

“Arius was part of a wider theological trajectory; many of his ideas were opposed by others in this trajectory: he neither originated the trajectory nor uniquely exemplified it.” (LA, 2)

Arius was only the spark.

“Many of the issues raised by the controversy were under lively discussion before Arius and Alexander publicly clashed” (RH, 52).

“The views of Arius were such as … to bring into unavoidable prominence a doctrinal crisis which had gradually been gathering. … He was the spark that started the explosion. But in himself he was of no great significance.” (RH, xvii)

“In the fourth century there came to a head a crisis … which was not created by … Arius.” (RH, xx)

The fuel for the Controversy has been gathering over the previous centuries as writers expressed conflicting views about how the Son relates to the Father. Before Christianity was legalized, Christians were simply too busy just trying to survive to do much wrestling on this topic. But, as soon as the persecution came to an end, this explosion was inevitable. And Arius, as Hanson stated, was only the spark that ignited the fire.

Why, then, the name ‘Arian’?

If the word “Arian” is derived from Arius’ name, and if Arius “in himself … was of no great significance” (RH, xvii) during the second and main phase of the ‘Arian Controversy’, why is it called the ‘Arian Controversy’?

Athanasius invented Arianism.

The only reason we today use the terms “Arian” and “Arianism” is because:

“The textbook picture of an Arian system … inspired by the teachings of the Alexandrian presbyter, is the invention of Athanasius’ polemic.” (RW, 234)

“’Arianism’ is the polemical creation of Athanasius above all.” (RW, 247) (Athanasius was the main defender of Nicene theology against the anti-Nicene majority.)

“’Arianism’ as a coherent system, founded by a single great figure and sustained by his disciples, is a fantasy … based on the polemic of Nicene writers, above all Athanasius.” (RW, 82)

What was Athanasius’ purpose?

Athanasius’ purpose was to create the impression that, although the various anti-Nicene views seem to differ, they all constituted a single coherent system; all based on Arius’ teachings. For example:

“Athanasius’ controversial energies … are dedicated to building up the picture of his enemies as uniformly committed … to a specific set of doctrines advanced by Arius and a small group of confederates” (RW, 82-83).

“The professed purpose of Athanasius … is to exhibit the essential continuity of Arianism from first to last beneath a deceptive appearance of variety, all non-Nicene formularies of belief really lead back to the naked ‘blasphemies of Arius’.” (RW, 66)

“Athanasius … was determined to show that any proposed alternative to the Nicene formula collapsed back into some version of Arius’ teaching, with all the incoherence and inadequacy that teaching displayed.” (RW, 247)

Athanasius’ purpose, therefore, was to argue, since Arius’ theology was already formally rejected by the church, that all opposition to the Nicene Creed was also already rejected.

Athanasius was accused of Sabellianism.

After Nicaea, the anti-Nicenes accused Alexander, Athanasius, and the Nicene Creed of submitting to Sabellianism; a theology which was already formally rejected during the previous century. For example:

“The so-called Semi-Arians in particular objected to this Greek term homoousios on the grounds that it has a Sabellian tendency.”3St. Athanasius (1911), “In Controversy With the Arians”, Select Treatises, Newman, John Henry Cardinal trans, Longmans, Green, & Co, p. 124, footn.

It was to counter this accusation, and “to tar” his opponents with the name of another theology that was already rejected, that Athanasius referred to his opponents as ‘Arians’.

“Heresiological labels enabled early theologians and ecclesiastical historians … to tar enemies with the name of a figure already in disrepute. Most famously some participants in the debate described loosely related but clearly distinct thinkers as Arians.” (LA, 2)

The term ‘Arian’ was intended to insult.

Athanasius was fond of insulting his opponents by calling them all sorts of names. (See Tuggy’s podcasts 169, 170, 171.) The name ‘Arian’ fits this pattern:

“’The Arians’, (and a variety of abusive names whereby he [Athanasius] distinguishes them.” (RH, 19)

Athanasius quotes Arius because he relies on such texts being a positive embarrassment to most of his opponents” (RW, 234).

A Serious Misnomer.

There was no single, coherent ‘Arian’ party.

The term “Arian” creates the impression that there was only one anti-Nicene view. However:

As already shown above, the term homoousios divided the church into several different branches, including several very different anti-Nicene views.

“‘Arianism,’ throughout most of the fourth century, was in fact a loose and uneasy coalition of those hostile to Nicaea in general and the homoousios in particular” (RW, 166).

“Scholars continue to talk as if there were a clear continuity among non-Nicene theologians by deploying such labels as Arians, semi-Arians, and neo-Arians. Such presentations are misleading.” (LA, 13-14)

“There was no such thing in the fourth century as a single, coherent ‘Arian’ party.” (RW, 233)

Arius was not the dominant teacher.

Furthermore, the term “Arian” creates the impression that Arius was the dominant teacher of the ‘Arian’ movement and that his disciples propagated his theology later in the century. However:

“No clear party sought to preserve Arius’ theology. Many … are termed Arian … (but) their theologies often have significantly different concerns and preoccupations.” (LA, 13)

“There was no single ‘Arian’ agenda, no tradition of loyalty to a single authoritative teacher. Theologians who criticized the Creed of Nicaea had very diverse attitudes to Arius himself.” (RW, 247)

“The fourth-century crisis … is very far from being a struggle by ‘the Church’ against a ‘heresy’ formulated and propagated by a single dominated teacher” (RW, 234).

“It is virtually impossible to identify a school of thought dependent on Arius’ specific theology.” (LA, 2)

A Serious Misnomer

Since Arius was not the dominant teacher but, actually, a relatively unimportant person, and since there was no single ‘Arian’ party, our authors concluded that:

“The expression ‘the Arian Controversy’ is a serious misnomer.” (RH, xvii-xviii)

“’Arianism’ is a very unhelpful term to use in relation to fourth-century controversy.” (RW, 247)

“This controversy is mistakenly called Arian.” (LA, 13)

Rowan Williams concluded, “I was still, in 1987, prepared, even with reservations, to use the adjective ‘Arian’ in a way I should now find difficult” (RW, 248).

And Lewis Ayres said, “For these reasons some scholars now simply refrain from using the term Arian other than as an adjective to describe Arius’ own theology and I shall follow that practice.” (LA, 14)

A Complete Travesty

Hanson stated that the traditional account of the Arian Controversy, which stems originally from the version given of it by the victorious party, is now recognized by a large number of scholars to be a complete travesty. Our authors confirm:

The “older accounts (of the Arian Controversy) are deeply mistaken.” (LA, 11)

“The accounts of what happened which have come down to us were mostly written by those who belonged to the school of thought which eventually prevailed and have been deeply coloured by that fact.” (RH, xviii-xix).

This message, however, has yet to fully reach the level of preachers and ordinary Christians due to, as Williams indicated, the prejudice caused by the long history of ‘demonizing’ Arius is extraordinarily powerful. (RW, 2)

Athanasius distorts.

In the view of the Catholic Church and many, many Protestants, Athanasius is the hero of the Arian Controversy and they believe whatever he wrote. But, apart from Jesus, nobody is without sin, and the above shows that Athanasius’ writings distort the nature of that Controversy:

“If Athanasius’ account does shape our understanding, we risk misconceiving the nature of the fourth-century crisis.” (RW, 234)

“This book has attempted to view Arius without the distorting gloss of Athanasian polemic intervening and determining our picture of the heresiarch.” (RW, 234)

The article titled Complete Travesty lists several aspects of the traditional account that are blatantly wrong but the fact that ‘Arianism’ is a serious misnomer is one of the more important aspects.

Trinitarian Christianity continued the deception.

Unfortunately, after Emperor Theodosius, in the year 380, made the Trinitarian version of Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and ruthlessly eliminated all other versions of Christianity from amongst the Roman people, the victorious Trinitarian Christianity accepted and continued Athanasius’ description of the Arian Controversy.

Even today, any person who opposes the Trinity doctrine is labeled as an ‘Arian’, irrespective of what the person believes.

It was only after the ancient documents became more readily available in the 20th century that scholars realized that the textbook account of the Arian Controversy is a complete travesty. But this realization is slow to work its way through to the rank and file of Christianity. 


Other Articles in this Series

Church Fathers

Arian Controversy

Arius

The Nicene Creed

Arianism

    • Athanasius invented Arianism. 22The only reason we today refer to ‘Arians’ is that Athanasius invented the term to falsely label his opponents with a theology that was already formally rejected by the church.
    • Did Arians describe the Son as a creature? 23‘Arians’ described Christ as originating from beyond our universe, the only being ever brought forth directly by the Father, and as the only being able to endure direct contact with God.
    • Homoian theology 24In the 350s, Athanasius began to use homoousios to attack the church majority. Homoian theology developed in response.
    • Homoi-ousian theology 25This was one of the ‘strands’ of ‘Arianism’. It proposed that the Son’s substance is similar to the Father’s, but not the same.
    • How did Arians interpret Colossians 2:9? 26Forget about Arius. He was an isolated extremist. This article quotes the mainstream anti-Nicenes to show how they understood that verse.

The Pro-Nicenes

Authors on the Arian Controversy

Extracts from the writings of scholars who have studied the ancient documents for themselves:

Trinity Doctrine – General

    • Elohim 33Elohim (often translated as God) is plural in form. Does this mean that the Old Testament writers thought of God as a multi-personal Being?
    • The Eternal Generation of the Son 34The Son has been begotten by the Father, meaning that the Son is dependent on the Father. Eternal Generation explains “begotten” in such a way that the Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.

All articles on this Site

FOOTNOTES

  • 1
    Fourthcentury.com. 23 January 2010.
  • 2
    Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd Ed 1963, p 41
  • 3
    St. Athanasius (1911), “In Controversy With the Arians”, Select Treatises, Newman, John Henry Cardinal trans, Longmans, Green, & Co, p. 124, footn.
  • 4
    The pre-Nicene fathers described the Son as “our God” but the Father as “the only true God,” implying that the Son is not “true” God. This confusion is caused by the translations.
  • 5
    Sabellius taught that Father, Son, and Spirit are three portions of one single Being.
  • 6
    If we define Sabellianism as that only one hypostasis – only one distinct existence – exists in the Godhead, was Tertullian a Sabellian?
  • 7
    RPC Hanson states that no ‘orthodoxy’ existed but that is not entirely true. This article shows that subordination was indeed ‘orthodox’ at that time.
  • 8
    The term “Arianism” implies that Arius’ theology dominated the fourth-century church. But Arius was not regarded in his time as a significant writer. He left no school of disciples.
  • 9
    Over the centuries, Arius was always accused of this. This article explains why that is a false accusation.
  • 10
    There are significant differences between Origen and Arius.
  • 11
    Arius wrote that the Son was begotten timelessly by the Father before everything. But Arius also said that the Son did not always exist. Did Arius contradict himself?
  • 12
    New research has shown that Arius is a thinker and exegete of resourcefulness, sharpness, and originality.
  • 13
    The word theos, which is translated as “God” in John 1:1 is not equivalent to the modern English word “God.”
  • 14
    Constantine took part in the Council of Nicaea and ensured that it reached the kind of conclusion which he thought best.
  • 15
    Eusebius of Caesarea, the most respected theologian at the Council, immediately afterward wrote to his church in Caesarea to explain why he accepted the Creed and how he understood the controversial phrases.
  • 16
    The Creed not only uses non-Biblical words; the concept of homoousios (that the Son is of the same substance as the Father) is not in the Bible.
  • 17
    Does it mean that Father and Son are one single Being, as the Trinity doctrine claims? How was it understood before, at, and after Nicaea? – Summary of the next article
  • 18
    The Nicene Creed describes the Son as homoousios (same substance) as the Father. But how was the term used before, during, and after Nicaea?
  • 19
    The term homoousios was not mentioned by anybody during the first 30 years after Nicaea. It only became part of that controversy in the 350s.
  • 20
    The word is not found in the Bible or in any orthodox Christian confession before Nicaea.
  • 21
    The Creed seems to say that the Father and Son are the same hupostasis. This is Sabellianism.
  • 22
    The only reason we today refer to ‘Arians’ is that Athanasius invented the term to falsely label his opponents with a theology that was already formally rejected by the church.
  • 23
    ‘Arians’ described Christ as originating from beyond our universe, the only being ever brought forth directly by the Father, and as the only being able to endure direct contact with God.
  • 24
    In the 350s, Athanasius began to use homoousios to attack the church majority. Homoian theology developed in response.
  • 25
    This was one of the ‘strands’ of ‘Arianism’. It proposed that the Son’s substance is similar to the Father’s, but not the same.
  • 26
    Forget about Arius. He was an isolated extremist. This article quotes the mainstream anti-Nicenes to show how they understood that verse.
  • 27
    Eustathius and Marcellus played a major role in the formulation of the Creed but were soon deposed for Sabellianism.
  • 28
    Athanasius presents himself as the preserver of Biblical orthodoxy but this article argues that he was a Sabellian.
  • 29
    In the Trinity doctrine, Father, Son, and Spirit are one substance or Being. This article shows that Basil taught three distinct substances.
  • 30
    This council reveals the state of Western theology at that time.
  • 31
    A summary of this book, which provides an overview of the fourth-century Arian Controversy. Lewis Ayres is a Catholic theologian and Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology.
  • 32
    A very informative lecture on the Arian Controversy by RPC Hanson, a famous fourth-century scholar
  • 33
    Elohim (often translated as God) is plural in form. Does this mean that the Old Testament writers thought of God as a multi-personal Being?
  • 34
    The Son has been begotten by the Father, meaning that the Son is dependent on the Father. Eternal Generation explains “begotten” in such a way that the Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.

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