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Arianism: Fact or Heresy?

Arius was a Libyan-born Christian priest in Alexandria, Egypt, who lived about 250-336 AD. He's best known for his teaching that, put most simply, at some point before physical time began at the creation of the universe (i.e. before "in the beginning" of the physical universe) God created a Son (or Logos). According to Arius, since the Son was created by The Father, He therefore had not always existed as has God, and He was not equal with The Father. He also taught that, through Christ, humans could potentially achieve the same spiritual level of existence as Christ (see Children Of God). The teaching became known as Arianism.

Arianism reached such a level of popularity that it caused a severe split in the Christian-professing world of the time. In response to the controversy, Emperor Constantine summoned the first Council of Nicea (or Nicaea) in May 325 where Athanasius, the patriarch of Alexandria, successfully opposed Arius, who was declared a heretic. Arianism was officially rejected, but it was far from extinguished.

Despite Arius having been condemned and anathematized, the doctrinal conflict continued, with bishops (for the first 500 years after the human lifetime of Jesus Christ, the bishop of Rome, known today as the Pope, was not ranked any higher than any of the many other bishops of other areas) and emperors (Constans opposed the Arians, while Constantius II supported them) often split for and against the Arians. It was a very divisive time - even the Arians themselves split into three conflicting groups.

Eventually, those who opposed the Arian view got the upper hand. Emperor Theodosius (reigned 379-395) made Catholicism, and the Nicene Creed (with its formal introduction of the Trinity doctrine), the official religion of the Roman empire. Arianism continued to exist however among the Germanic tribes at least to the end of the 7th century, and some modern-day church organizations do hold, at least in part, to the Arian view.

Many still ask, "Was Arius right?"

The Logos

"In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men ... And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from The Father." (John 1:1-4,14 RSV)

Logos Many recognize those familiar words of the apostle John, with perhaps one exception. We have used the original Greek word Logos (illustrated at right) in place of Word, that most English-language Bibles use in those translated Scriptures.

What and Who was The Logos?

If we carefully read what John wrote in his Gospel account, we see that the Logos was with God, and was God, but was not a God, because there is only one God:

"Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are My witnesses! Is there a God besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any" (Isaiah 44:8 RSV)

The Logos was the wisdom and power by which God created the heavens and the earth:

"He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in Him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell." (Colossians 1:15-19 RSV)

The Logos became flesh, but God did not become flesh:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:16-17 RSV)

"And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from The Father." (John 1:14 RSV)

Jesus Christ obeyed God, and said of The Father:

"I do as the Father has commanded Me, so that the world may know that I love The Father." (John 14:31 RSV)

So, Who and What is The Logos? Consider these points of fact taken from the pages of your own Holy Bible -

  • The Logos was God, but not a God.
  • The Logos was the Power and Wisdom of God.
  • All things were created for and by the Logos.
  • The Logos became flesh as Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus Christ is the Logos of God.

Fact Finder: Is Jesus Christ "the power and the wisdom" of God?
(1 Corinthians 1:24)


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