Arianism. A heresy which arose in the fourth century, and denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Essay by Gary AndersenA+, January 1997

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A heresy which arose in the fourth century, and denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ.


First among the doctrinal disputes which troubled Christians after Constantine had

recognized the Church in A.D. 313, and the parent of many more during some

three centuries, Arianism occupies a large place in ecclesiastical history. It is not a

modern form of unbelief, and therefore will appear strange in modern eyes. But we

shall better grasp its meaning if we term it an Eastern attempt to rationalize the

creed by stripping it of mystery so far as the relation of Christ to God was

concerned. In the New Testament and in Church teaching Jesus of Nazareth

appears as the Son of God. This name He took to Himself (Matt., xi, 27; John, x,

36), while the Fourth Gospel declares Him to be the Word (Logos), Who in the

beginning was with God and was God, by Whom all things were made.

A similar

doctrine is laid down by St. Paul, in his undoubtedly genuine Epistles to the

Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians. It is reiterated in the Letters of Ignatius, and

accounts for Pliny's observation that Christians in their assemblies chanted a hymn

to Christ as God. But the question how the Son was related to the Father (Himself

acknowledged on all hands to be the one Supreme Deity), gave rise, between the

years A. D. 60 and 200, to number of Theosophic systems, called generally

Gnosticism, and having for their authors Basilides, Valentinus, Tatian, and other

Greek speculators. Though all of these visited Rome, they had no following in the

West, which remained free from controversies of an abstract nature, and was

faithful to the creed of its baptism. Intellectual centers were chiefly Alexandria and

Antioch, Egyptian or Syrian, and speculation was...