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Heresy that engulfed many areas of the ch. esp. 320–380.

1. Origin. Arius (d. 336), a priest in a suburb of Alexandria, tried to combine the adoptionism of Paul* of Samosata with the Neoplatonic (see Neoplatonism) idea of divine transcendence and utter inaccessibility of God. God was described as an abstract monad,* alone unbegotten, without equal, unchangeable, ineffable. Since God could not create the world directly because of His very nature, He created out of nothing, “before all times and eons,” an intermediate being, exalted above other creatures, through whom He created the world. This intermediate being is the Logos,* called “Son,” who is not true God and not eternal. Some went so far as to teach that the Logos was dissimilar (anomoios) from the Father in essence (see Anomoeans). In time this being took human flesh, not inherently sinless, but capable of moral progress, choosing the good and continuing therein.

2. Controversy. Alexander,* bp. of Alexandria, called a council ca. 321, which excommunicated Arius, who continued to defend himself and found powerful supporters in Eusebius* of Nicomedia and Eusebius* of Caesarea. Constantine* I advised all involved to overlook trivia and agree on fundamentals. When this advice failed, perhaps on the advice of Hosius,* Constantine summoned the 1st ecumenical council to meet at Nicaea.* There the formula proposed by the Arians was laughed out of session. But the vast majority could not agree on a positive statement. One group, following Eusebius of Caesarea, did not agree with Arius, but did insist that the godhead was of 3 hypostases. When the W bps. would not agree to this formula, fearing it would lead to Arianism, and insisted on the statement that God is One in essence (homoousios*), a long standing suspicion between Gk. and Lat. teachers came to the surface. Those who insisted on the 3 hypostases believed that a simple statement of homoousios would lead to modalism. Therefore they used the term homoiousios* (“of like essence”) to preserve the identity of each. These were later designated “Eusebians.” They signed the Creed of Nicaea but only upon assurances from Constantine that it did not involve modalism.

3. Issue. After Nicaea there was constant quarreling between these 2 positions. The quarrel allowed the Arians to retain their positions. As long as Constantine lived, a balance was retained, but with his death and a redivision of the empire bet. his sons, one of whom supported the W and the other the E position, the teachers of the ch. fell into bitter provocation and acrimony. Athanasius even called the Gks. Semi-Arians. Constantius, who ultimately was dominant, had no interest in theology and was interested only in settlement. He deposed any bp. who stood for a strong position, especially the homoousians. Only with Constantius' death were the various parties to this dispute able to get together and settle the matter. This settlement, worked out by Hilary* of Poitiers and Ambrose* of Milan in the W with Basil of Caesarea and Athanasius in the E, was formalized by the Council of Constantinople, 381. The godhead was designated homoousios made up of 3 distinct hypostases, 1 substance in 3 persons. This council is also said to have drawn up what we call the Nicene Creed.

4. Prominent anti-Arians include the Cappadocian* Theologians.

See also Jerusalem, Synods of; Subordinationism.

C. J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, tr. and ed. W. R. Clark, Vols. I, II (Edinburgh, 1894, 1896); H. M. Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, 2d ed. (Cambridge, 1900) and “Arianism,” Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. 1: The Christian Roman Empire, ed. H. M. Gwatkin and J. P. Whitney (New York, 1924), pp. 118–142; J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, 2d ed. (New York, 1960); H. Lietzmann, A History of the Early Church, tr. B. L. Woolf, vols. III, IV (Cleveland, 1961). WWO

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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