Arius vs Bishop Athanasius  
300 years after Jesus, a major Christian doctrine controversy was about to erupt
The Arian controversy arose between Arius, a priest and theologian, and Bishop Athanasius, a church father. The controversy was over Christian doctrine of the relationship between the Father (God) and Jesus, and divided the church into two opposing theological factions for over 55 years.

Arius Athanasius
250-336 AD 296-373 AD
Arianism and Modalism
("Unitarians" on their way to becoming Binaterians)
Athanasian, Catholicism and Nicene Creed
("Binaterians" on their way to becoming Trinitarians)
Arius was the leading father in Arianism. Arianism is the idea that Jesus is not equal to the Father by nature, but He is the first creation of God. As Arianism rejects the divinity of Christ, salvation to mankind was at stake according to Athanasius.
Bishop Athanasius was the defender of the Nicene Theology for orthodox Christianity. Athanasius advocates the essence of the three persons (Trinity) which was a key argument to defend the divinity of Jesus.
Arius is described as a tall, lean man, with a downcast brow, austere habits, considerable learning, and a smooth, winning address, but quarrelsome disposition
Athanasius was slightly below the middle height, spare in build, but well-knit, and intensely energetic. He had a finely shaped head, set off with a thin growth of auburn hair, a small but sensitively mobile mouth, an aquiline nose, and eyes of intense but kindly brilliancy.

He had a ready wit, was quick in intuition easy and affable in manner, pleasant in conversation, keen, and, perhaps, somewhat too unsparing in debate
Trained in the Lucian School, Arius was called one of the heretical fathers of Arianism. Arianism was a heretical doctrine of theological rationalism, based on the teachings of Lucian of Antioch, Paul of Samosata, and Neoplatonic theory of subordinationism.

It is claimed that Arius wrote very little and only a few fragments survived; in addition a number of his works were destroyed following Arius' defeat at the Council of Nicaea.
Though Athanasius was not a systematic theologian, his greatest dedication in life was the fierce defence of orthodox Christianity against the Arian heresy.

The three discourses of Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos, were his main writings against Arianism defining the Nicene Council; a unity of divine essence in the Father and Jesus; and the Jesus is eternal, uncreated and unchangeable.
Arius questioned the divinity of Jesus, the Son, by emphasizing the supremacy of the Father; so only the Father is infinite, eternal and almighty.

Jesus was an evolved soul compared to the rest of humanity, but much less than the Father, as the Son possessed neither the eternity nor the divinity of the Father.

However, according to Arius, Jesus can spiritually evolve or grow over time to come closer and closer to the Father in terms of power and divinity.
The Athanasian belief believed in the divinity of Jesus as a begotten being of the holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, which are at the same level and not subordinate to each other. Together the three constituted the Almighty.

This Trinity is an equivalent of the Osiris, Isis and Horus of Egyptian teachings, the Brahma,Vishnu and Shiva of Hinduism, Ahuramazda, Mithira and Ahriman of Zoarastrianism, and Amitabha, Manjushri and Avalokitesvara of Northern Buddhism.
God is one, his oneness, eternal, good, uncaused

God was primarily a creator, and beyond that, little was known of the incomprehensible being of God, which was unknown even to Jesus. Also, the existence of Jesus, the word of God, was the result of God's will.
Athanasius argued, although God could indeed, if He so willed, have created the world from all eternity, yet created things themselves, of their own nature, could not have existed eternally, since they are created "out of nothing", and consequently did not exist before they were brought into existence.

He asks, "How can things which did not exist before they originated be co-eternal with God?" 
Arians would say, we are humans by nature, and as such, we breathe. Since breathing is part of our nature as living humans, we have to breath, by constraint, whether we like it or not. We must breathe because it is an essential and necessary part of our humanity. But this also limits our freedom. For instance, we are unable without some sort of artificial apparatus to breathe if we are found twelve miles above the surface of the earth, or in outer space. Nor can we breathe, without outside help, if we are a few miles down within the depths of the sea.

This means that we are not free to go wherever we like. Our freedom is curtailed because of nature's constraints upon us. 

Therefore, said the Arians, by saying that the Son is of the essence, of the nature, of the Father, this means that you are thereby limiting God's freedom, because you are saying that God begat the Son by nature, which means He had to beget the Son, whether He wanted to or not. This is not acceptable.

Arius insisted that Jesus was substantially distinct from, though of similar substance with, God the Father.

Arius denied the uniqueness and divinity of Jesus; eternal, begotten of God the Father, in some sense lesser than God himself.

Arians never say that Jesus was homoousios, "of one nature" with the Father. Jesus' existence had to depend upon the deliberation and will of the Father, said the Arians, because otherwise it would appear that God had a Son "by nature", that is, "by necessity" and, as it were "unwillingly".

Here the Arians were thinking in Greek philosophical terms. Like the pagan Greeks, "by nature" meant "by necessity".
Athanasius held that Jesus and the Father were "of the same substance."

We might call them "binaterians" since the Holy Spirit had not been given the same status yet as a "person" within the divinity; Trinity doctrine was yet to be invented.

Athanasius claimed God does not deliberate within Himself about His own being and existence. Indeed, it would be absurd to contend that God's goodness and mercy are just His voluntary habit, and not a part of His nature.

But does it mean that God is good and merciful unwillingly? Now, continues Athanasius, what is "by nature", or "by essence", is higher than what is only "by deliberation" or "by will".

Since the Son is the offspring of the Father's own substance, the Father does not "deliberate" about Him, since it would mean "deliberation" about His own being. God is the Father of His Son "by nature" and not "by will". Whatever was "created", was indeed created by the good-will and deliberation of God.

But the Son is not a deed of will, like creatures, but by nature He is an offspring of God's own substance. It is an insane and extravagant idea to interject "will" and "counsel" between the Father and the Son.

For the Church Fathers, temporal creatures cannot "co-exist" eternally with the Eternal God. They have two disparate modes of existence. Creatures have their own mode of existence: they are outside of God's inner life, His essence; they are created. The Son alone, as one uncreated, is an offspring of the Father's substance, and has the intrinsic power to "co-exist" eternally with the Father. 

We are not saved by a creature, but only by the living God. Jesus is our Saviour; therefore, he is not a creature.
  • We say that the Son is like the Father (10th Arian Confession, 359 CE)
  • Before He was begotten or created or purposed or established He was not (319 CE)
  • God begot an only begotten son before eternal times
  • The Son being created and founded before ages was not [had no existence] before His generation (320 CE)
  • He is a perfect creature of God
  • God is without beginning but the Son has a beginning (319 CE)
  • Jesus Christ is of one substance with the Father (325 CE)
  • [It is false that] before He was begotten he was not (325 CE)
  • Whosoever shall say that there was a time when He was not; the Church denounces them (325 CE)
  • Whosoever shall say that He is a creature; the Church denounces them (325 CE)
  • Neither by thought nor by any interval does God precede the Son; always God, always Son. (Views attributed to Athanasians by Arius 319 CE)
    The Holy Spirit is not a big issue for most of the 4th century and throughout the Arian controversy
    The Holy Spirit is not without actual existence, but exists and has true being. The Trinity does not exist at this stage in history
    Arius beliefs were non-Trinitarian in nature,

    Arius rejected the essence of Trinity and insisted the concrete and distinct three persons of the Godhead, a separate essence and subordination of the Son to Father.
    Athanasian beliefs were Trinitarian in nature,

    At this stage, Trinity remains a mystery that is difficult to explain, and tempting to oversimplify
  • God is absolute one, not only in nature but in person. He is in no sense generated. It is therefore impossible for Him to communicate His substance. He is uncreated, unbegotten, without begining and can only create things outside Himself

  • Jesus is an intermediary between God and the world, existing before cosmic time but not eternal. Consequently there was a period when Jesus was not.

  • This means that Jesus was created. He was produced. If we insist on saying that He was born, in the sense of generated from the Father, such a term can mean only an adopted sonship and not a natural filiation.

  • As a result, the nature of Jesus is to be fallible and peccable; He could both err and sin. Yet His moral virtue was of so high an order that de facto he never blundered or sinned. Although inferior to God, He is so perfect that no other will be created superior to Him.

  • The Holy Spirit is the first creature after Jesus, and is still less God than Jesus himself.
  • Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

  • And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost.

  • But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost.

  • The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite.

  • So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord.

  • For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding.

  • So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another.

  • But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

  • Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Substance [Essence] of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance [Essence] of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood.

  • Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God. One altogether; not by confusion of Substance [Essence]; but by unity of Person.

  • For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.

  • This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

    LOST: 2 votes (or 1%)

    Arianism was rejected.
    Having lost the theological battle at Nicaea, Arius is exiled to Illyria (north of Greece on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea). 

    WON: 316 votes (or 99%)

    Athanasius won
    The Christian doctrine that Jesus and the Father were of the same substance, was adopted. Athanasius become Bishop of Alexandria, a very influential post.
    The Arian position continues to be influential within the Eastern Mediterranean churches 
    The Western branches of the church lean toward Athanasius' position

    1 hr ago | 1935 views   •   Author: Guest   •   Updated: 06 Oct 2017

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