The Arian and Athanasius Controversy


            Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius, a Christian Presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and precise nature of the son of God being a subordinate entity to God the Father. Deemed a heretic by the First Synod of Tyre, and then, after his death, pronounced a heretic again at the First Council of Constantinople of 381. The Roman Emperors Constantius II and Valens were Arians or Semi-Arians. The Arian concept of Christ is that the Son of God did not always exist, but he was created by and he is therefore distinct from and he is inferior to God the Father. This belief is grounded in the Gospel of John passage. “You hear me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” If you love me, you would be glad that I Am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28).

            Arianism are those teachings attributed to Arius which are in opposition to mainstream Trinitarian Christological doctrine, as determined by the first two Ecumenical Councils and currently maintained by the Roman Catholic church , the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the most Reformation Protestant churches.

            This belief system is based on the statement that God the Father always existing, was separate from the lesser Jesus, born before time began and the Creator of the world. The Father working through the Son created the Holy Spirit who is subordinate to the Son, as the Son is subordinate to the Father.


            The doctrine of Arianism as opposed by Athanasius regarding the triune nature of God as it relates to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is an erroneous and heretical doctrine which posed controversy between Athanasius and Arius during the Medieval Period. This doctrine was perpetrated through his supporters using humanistic ideological philosophy infused by the human mind without the Spirit of God. The controversy regarding the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ was a controversy led by the bishops and their theologians in a political background created by the interests of each Christian power concentrated within the political boundaries of the Roman Empire. As stated, this controversy was not only theological, but also had elements of political expediency. This is why we see Emperor Constantine intervening and calling into session the council of Nicea in 325 A.D. At the milieu of the theological debate or controversy rested the very essence of the understanding of the relationship between God the Father and Son. It is from this council that we obtain the orthodox confession which declares that Jesus was begotten of the Father. The council also anathematized Arius and his followers, but Arius arguments had to be dealt with exegetically and not just by the power of the state church for years to come. That is, they had to be defeated in the arena of ideas and not just under the threat of action by the state. During the deliberation of the controversy, Athanasius referred to the Greek words only once or twice in order to refute the ideologies of Arians while he preferred to stay close to the Biblical text. At the end of the controversy, Arianism was defeated making Athanasius to set the stage for the doctrine of the trinity which has become the doctrine of the mainline and evangelical theology affecting the ecclesiology.


            In order to give a comprehensive exposition on the heretic doctrine of Arianism in this discourse, it is expedient and paramount that the subjects on the Godhead in creation, the relationship of the Father to the Son, and the relationship of the Son to the Holy Spirit be discussed to enable this discourse to give a clear explanation and apologetic approach to John 14:28. The insightful to this scripture require an apologetic solution to this heretic doctrine against the triune-nature of God will require that the subjects mentioned under the discussion heading be discussed independently to make this paper arrive to a conclusion of the subject in question that requires an answer after going through the process thereby arriving at the conclusion.


            In the creation process according to the Genesis 1:1-3, God the Father is the originator of everything, God the Son is the Administrator, and God the Holy Spirit is the power manifester. These individuals in the Godhead play specific roles in the creation process. They had lived together in the eternity past; consequently, they have no beginning and no ending. The Holy Spirit would not have been created according to Arius and neither would the Son be lesser than the Father because they all co-exist and they have never been created at any time. God can not be created; rather he is the one who does the creation.

            God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit worked together to make man according to the scriptures in Genesis 1:26, 2:6-7.


            God the Son is not subservient or subordinate to the Father. Christ is supreme and he can not degraded by human ideologies and philosophy. Jesus said in John 14:8-11 that he and his Father are one. In this scripture, the oneness of God does not refer or support the doctrine of Unitarianism, but it affirms a collaborative and humility nature of God. Humility is the virtue of divine presence. God is humble; as the result, he humble himself and became obedient to death on the cross according Phil. 2:5-10. Jesus’ assertion in John 14:28 does not indicate subordination, it indicates humility of Jesus in the Godhead. He is God and he can not be subordinate to himself. Arius’ approach to degrade Jesus Christ as the lesser person in the Godhead is a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of scriptures that has no hermeneutical soundness. His attempt to lessen Jesus is the direct attempt to lessen his glory. You can not put God into a box and understand the truth of his word.


            As we examine the relationship of Jesus to the Holy Spirit, it should be noted that the Holy Spirit is God; consequently, he can not be created because he is the Creator. He is the manifestation and power of God to bring into effect creation. He is the power of himself producing things out of nothing. Jesus asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit as a counselor to his disciples because he was about to be taken up into heaven. The absence of Jesus with his disciples would lead them comfortless; therefore, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to be with the disciples on the day of Pentecostal according to Acts 2:1-4. The promise Jesus made to send the Holy Spirit in John 14:15-17 was fulfilled on Pentecost Day. John the Baptist made mention of this when he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.