Miniature Council of Nicaea condemned Arius’s ...
Council of Nicaea condemned Arius’s teaching, miniature of century IV. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arius (c.250-c.336)  was a Libyan Christian theologian who gave voice to and refined some preexisting ideas that would become known as the heresy of Arianism.

Around 319 CE he created controversy by saying that Christ is “divinized” but remains subordinate to God. For Arius, God is absolutely transcendent and cannot be present in a human being.

Arius gained some support, but he was excommunicated in 321 by a synod of bishops at Alexandria, mostly because his views differed from the central belief of the Trinity, in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal.

The Trinity was a well-understood idea even within 2nd century Christian communities, but the actual dogma of the Trinity wasn’t firmly defined at the time of the controversy.¹ In 325 the Council of Nicea formulated the Trinity as three equal, eternal persons.²

Often criticized as a historical fabrication, for Catholic believers this tenet of their faith is not arbitrarily manufactured within history; rather, it’s said to be the reception and conceptual articulation of an eternal truth within the course of history. This is a not-too-subtle point often overlooked by second-rate writers on religion.

¹  Ignatius of Antioch and  Justin Martyr write about the Trinity in the 2nd century. See

² This morning over coffee I found these select passages from the Wikipedia entry about Arius particularly interesting:

Reconstructing the life and doctrine of Arius has been proved to be a difficult task, as none of his original writings survive. Emperor Constantine ordered their burning while Arius was still living, and any that survived this purge were later destroyed by his Orthodox opponents. Those works which have survived are quoted in the works of churchmen who denounced him as a heretic. This leads some—but not all—scholars to question their reliability…

Although his character has been severely assailed by his opponents, Arius appears to have been a man of personal ascetic achievement, pure morals, and decided convictions. Paraphrasing Epiphanius of Salamis, an opponent of Arius, Catholic historian Warren H. Carroll describes him as “tall and lean, of distinguished appearance and polished address. Women doted on him, charmed by his beautiful manners, touched by his appearance of asceticism. Men were impressed by his aura of intellectual superiority.”[8]

Arius was also accused of being too liberal and loose in his theology, engaging in heresy (as defined by his opponents). However, some historians argue that Arius was actually quite conservative,[9] and that he deplored how, in his view, Christian theology was being too freely mixed with Greek pagan philosophy.[10]

Like many third-century Christian scholars, Arius was influenced by the writings of Origen, widely regarded as the first great theologian of Christianity.[14] However, while he drew support from Origen’s theories on the Logos, the two did not agree on everything. Arius clearly argued that the Logos had a beginning and that the Son, therefore, was not eternal. By way of contrast,Origen taught that the relation of the Son to the Father had no beginning, and that the Son was “eternally generated”.[15]

A modern English church called the The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Arian Catholicism claims to follow Arian teachings, canonizing Arius on June 16, 2006.

See entire article:


One comment

  1. Arius’ position affected both his concept of God–nontrinitarian, as you say–and his concept of the person of Jesus whom he regarded as not divine but a creature like other human beings. The Orthodox position is that Christ is begotten of the Father and not made (or created), the person of Christ is both fully human and fully divine. It is complicated stuff when you look at it closely, but there it is.


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