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1 Arius and Athanasius Debates. 2 Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. ~Seneca the Younger,

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Presentation on theme: "1 Arius and Athanasius Debates. 2 Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. ~Seneca the Younger,"— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Arius and Athanasius Debates

2 2 Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. ~Seneca the Younger, c. 4 BC - 65 AD Arius and Athanasius

3 3 Judaism Orthodox Conservative Reform Christianity Eastern Orthodox Roman Catholicism Mormonism Protestantism Fundamentalist Conservative Liberal UnitarianUniversalist Unitarian Universalist

4 4 Arius and Athanasius The ANTI-CHRISTIAN Campaign began slowly. What angered Diocletian was not the Christian’s particular beliefs as their exclusiveness – their apparent inability to respect other people’s gods. The Christian’s attitude seemed fanatical, like that of the Jews who made the suicidal mistake – twice! – of rebelling against Rome’s authority over Palestine. How could one deal with such fanatics, except by force? What most pagan leaders – even those as far-seeing as Diocletian – could not comprehend was the fact that the Christians had not merely added another god to the pantheon. They had defined religion itself. Pre-Constantine, Roman Empire under Diocletian & Caesar Galerius

5 5 Arius and Athanasius In 312, Constantine marched on Rome with his troops to defeat Maxentius, his principal rival for power in the western half of the empire. Constantine was one of those “advanced” pagans who believed in a Supreme God: Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. One day, as it is told, while on the march toward Rome, Constantine and his soldiers saw a flaming cross in the sky, accompanied by the words Touto nika: By this, conquer. The following night he had a dream in which Jesus Christ appeared, showed him the sign of the Cross, and told him to inscribe it on his soldiers’ standards. Constantine’s forces defeated Maxentius’ forces. Constantine was now the ruler of the West – and a convinced Christian. In 313, the Edict of Milan was issued which terminated the persecution of Christians. Finally, in 324, Constantine defeated Licinius’s forces. Lucinius was Constantine’s chief rival in the East. The Roman Empire was united under one man, and that ruler was a Christian. Conversion of Constantine

6 6 Arius and Athanasius Christian clergymen were granted the privileges that were formerly accorded only to pagan priests. Constantine’s true goal, beyond favoring his coreligionists, was to unite the empire’s diverse, quarreling peoples in one huge spiritual fellowship. Paganism was now clearly decadent, but once upon a time it had served its purpose. Why shouldn’t the new religion play an equally vital and creative role? Easy right? There was a problem. The Christians could not agree on theology. Clearly, the emperor saw the quarrel jeopardizing his own dreams. So, we begin the Arius and Athanasius Debates. Constantine’s Plan

7 7 Arius was about 60 years old was licensed by the bishop, Alexander, in 314. Arius was a tall, slender, gray-haired man and was a famous speaker. He was in the habit of putting his theology into poetry and chanting it to enraptured congregants. Arius had written a long poem – The Banquet – in a rhythmic meter ordinarily used for popular ballads. It was already chanted in port cities all around the eastern Mediterranean. Arius was a particular favorite of the sailors, dockworkers, and young women who flocked to his church. The church’s sodality of virgins, in fact, had scandalized the neighborhood by protesting in public when he was ordered to leave the city by Bishop Alexander. The cause of this departure was a disagreement between the priest, Arius, and Bishop Alexander over a matter of Church doctrine. Arius and Athanasius Arius, the beginning of controversy

8 8 Rather than asserting that Jesus was divine by nature, Arius emphasized that he had earned his “adoption” as Son and his “promotion” to divine status through moral growth and obedience to God. These were explosive ideas. Faced with the problem that had confronted all Christians since St. Paul – how to be a monotheist believing in only on God, yet still worship Jesus Christ – Arius advanced the view that Jesus was a creature intermediary between man and God. The priest’s new work, The Banquet, gave these ideas a provocative, poetic edge. Alexander had reason to consider it a dangerous document: –The Unbegun made the Son a beginning of things made and advanced him as His Son by adoption. –Understand that the Monad was, but the Dyad was not, before it came to exist. –Thus, there is the Triad, but not in equal glories. Not intermingling with each other are their substances. –One equal to the Son, the Superior, is able to beget, but one more excellent of superior or greater, He is not able. –At God’s will the Son is what and whatsoever he is. –God is incomprehensible to His Son. He is what He is to Himself: Unspeakable. –The Father knows the Son, but the Son does not know himself. Arius and Athanasius Arius, his theology

9 9 The fiery young deacon was only in his twenties, he was already a power in Alexandrian church and a theologian of note. Formerly Alexander’s secretary, now a deacon and the top member of his staff, he was reported to have written a number of the bishop’s sermons and letters. He was quite prepared to use the violent methods of the streets, when necessary, to accomplish worthwhile goals. He felt that compromise with Arius and his allies was out of the question. The differences between the Arians and true Christians were no mere matters of emphasis or alterable “opinion”: they went to the heart of what it meant to be a Christian. Jesus had to be both fully human and fully divine. Could the death of a mere human being redeem our sins, grant us immortality, and, eventually, resurrect our physical bodies? Of course not! Constantine favored the doctrine of Alexander and Athanasius. The Church he needed was one that would help him keep order among the ordinary folk: people who would never become immortal unless God decided for reasons of his own to save them. Arius and Athanasius Athanasius, the man and his theology

10 10 Constantine had decided to move the meeting from Ancyra, two hundred miles inland, to his summer residence on the Lake of Nicea near Nicomedia. This change was made because Ancyra was Bishop Marcellus’s city. Marcellus was an extreme anti-Arian. Bishop Hosius of Cordova, Spain presided, not Constantine. Constantine was, technically speaking, a non-Christian throughout his reign and did not receive baptism until he lay on his deathbed. A good emperor – even a good Christian – would inevitably find himself compelled to choose between losing heaven and losing power. There were 250 bishops in attendance, almost all of them from the Eastern Empire. The council of Nicaea, then, was not universal. Several later gatherings would be more representative of the entire Church; one of them, the joint council of Rimini- Seleucia (359), was attended by more than 500 bishops from both East and West. The Rimini-Seleucia council adopted an Arian creed and was later repudiated by the Church. Councils whose products were later deemed unorthodox not only lost the “ecumenical” label but virtually disappeared from official Church history. Eusebius of Caesarea, who had been excommunicated by the Council of Antioch, delivered the official welcome to the emperor. This demonstrated how little partisan excommunications meant in the heat of a passionate religious struggle. Constantine took no public position on the issues in controversy; he simply pleaded for peace and harmony in the Church. Arius and Athanasius Council of Nicaea, General

11 11 The Creed: One Lord Jesus Christ, the Logos [Word] of God, God from God, light from light, life from life, Son only begotten, first begotten of all creation, begotten before all ages from the Father, through Whom all things came into being, Who because of our salvation was incarnate, and dwelt among men, and suffered, and rose again on the third day, and ascended to the Father, and will come again in glory to judge the living and dead. One change, suggested by the emperor – that the Son was homoousios with the Father; that is, that Jesus and God shared the same essence. Ousia is usually translated as “essence” or “substance”; homo means “the same.” The anti-Arians wanted to devise a statement of faith that the “subordinationists” could not interpret in their own way and sign. Homoousios was their solution. Constantine then sent court officials to each bishop’s seat with copies of the document to be signed on the spot. Everyone signed with the exception of two of Arius’s most devoted Libyan supporters, whom the emperor immediately sent into exile along with Arius and several priests. Arius is out? So, the anti-Arians had “won.” Did this end the controversy? Arius and Athanasius Council of Nicaea, The Creed

12 12 Because they signed the creed under duress, both Bishops Eusebius of Caesarea and Eusebius of Nicomedia wrote long letters to their congregants “explaining” their signatures. They said, “begotten, not made” did not mean that Jesus shared God’s essence - that he was – but only that he was a unique creation of God. Within three years, over the vehement protests of the anti-Arians, Arius, Eusebius, and their fellow exiles would be forgiven by Constantine and welcomed back to the Church. Athanasius, now bishop of Alexandria, would be forced to readmit Arius to communion in that city as well. A decade after that, with Bishop Athanasius himself in exile, Arianism would be well on the way to becoming the dominant theology of the Eastern Empire. Council of Nicomedia met in early 328. Arius’s creed was pronounced orthodox. Arius is back in! Little more than two years after the Council of Nicaea ended, its most significant practical decisions were thus overturned. Arius and Athanasius After the Council of Nicaea

13 13 After the Council of Nicomedia and the reinstatement of the anti-Arian exiles, rumors about Athanasius’s violent behavior circulated in the East. Eusebius had waited for such an opportunity. Athanasius was charged with extortion and murder. Athanasius was presented as a violent, vengeful man unfit to be a Christian bishop. The case was brought before the Council of Tyre. They excommunicated the bishop, removed him from office, and ordered him not to return to Alexandria. So, now Athanasius is out? In the summer of 336, the Eastern bishops met at Constantinople with the emperor in attendance. A creed submitted by Arius was read and discussed. Constantine himself interrogated the controversial priest. The assembled bishops again declared his views acceptable and ordered him readmitted to the Church. This was the FOURTH council since Arius’s return from exile to pronounce his theology orthodox. The Bishop Alexander was ordered to receive Arius in the Church. The night before he was to be received by Alexander, Arius died. Poison was the murder weapon of choice for many Roman intriguers. Arius and Athanasius More post-Council of Nicaea Events

14 14 May 22, 337 Emperor Constantine died. Who was going take his place? There was a huge power struggle for control. Finally, after defeating in battle and killing all of his other brothers, in 353, Constantius, reunited the entire empire under his own rule. He sympathized with the “subordinationist” (Arian) views of the Eastern bishops. OK, so Arianism will be back in favor, right? Council of Antioch was held in 338-339. With Constantius in attendance, they convicted Athanasius of violence and mayhem, renewed the verdict of the Council of Tyre and again ordered him deposed. Now began a campaign of unprecedented intensity within the state-led Church to discover a generally acceptable formula of faith and the appropriate level of force needed to compel dissenters to accept it. Constantius convened at least nine Church councils! December 31, 359, the Creed of Rimini-Seleucia was published. It was a broad statement that any Arian could sign for the vexatious Nicene Creed. The Roman world was Arian! Arius and Athanasius Emperor Constantine Dies

15 15 Julian takes over. Like Constantius and Constantine, Julian dreamed of unifying the Roman Empire and restoring its lost glory. But the religion that would make this renaissance possible was not Christianity, it was PAGANISM. The Church no longer had state support. There was speculation, that without state support and with all of the internal conflicts within Christianity, the Church would self-destruct! Led by Basil of Cappodocian Caesarea, his younger brother, Gregory of Nyssa, and their best friend, Gregory of Nazianzus, they developed ideas that would make it possible for conservative Arians and Nicene Christians to eventually fuse. In 373, Athanasius of Alexandria died, full of age and honors. He was mourned as a great theologian, fighter, and statesman, the personification of the Nicene cause. Five times he had suffered exile and five times returned to his beloved city. However, the new Arian emperor, Valens, was not sorry to see him go. Valens was killed by the Gothic army at Hadrianopolis. With the Arian emperor slaughtered, things were looking bad for Arianism and Christianity. The heart of Arianism was the idea that radical improvements in human behavior need not await the apocalypse or be limited in this world to a cadre of religious specialists. Arius and Athanasius Emperor Constantius Dies, Athanasius Dies

16 16 A new emperor, Augustus, came to Constantinople. He offered the Arian bishop, Demophilus, the choice of accepting the Nicene Creed or going into exile. Demophilus chose to surrender his office and he left the city. Arians and other heretics were forbidden to occupy any church or meet together for worship within the walls of any town. In 381, therefore, about 150 selected Eastern bishops came to the capital to take part in the Council of Constantinople. The creed adopted – essentially the Nicene Creed with a few minor variations – is generally considered to have terminated the Arius and Athanasius controversy, attendance at the council was far from universal. Not long after this, the advocacy of Arian views (at least of the radical sort) and the possession of Arian writings would become crimes punishable by death. About one thousand years later, Arian beliefs would be espoused by a number of well-known English Protestants, some of whom would go on to create Unitarianism Arius and Athanasius Council of Constantinople


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