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Arian

Updated: Mar 3

January 21, 2024


This week we are going to pick up our study of the various heresies again after our break for advent and Christmas. Just to refresh the memory a bit, we were dealing with the Arian heresy which began in the 4th century and lasted the majority of that century and bits and pieces of it continued to survive in small enclaves and eventually the some of the main points reappear when Islam is founded by Mohammed in the 7th century and then in other Christian denominations after Martin Luther founds the protestant Church in the 16th century and is still present very much in the universalist (Unitarian) denominations. It is also a large part of the Christology of the Jehovah’s witnesses and the Latter-Day Saints Church.


The main tenant of the Arian heresy is that Christ is not actually the consubstantial Son of God. The encyclopedia Britannica gives a decent little summary of this position: Arius’s basic premise was the uniqueness of God, who is alone self-existent (not dependent for His existence on anything else) and immutable; the Son, who is not self-existent, cannot therefore be the self-existent and immutable God. Because the Godhead is unique, it cannot be shared or communicated. Because the Godhead is immutable, the Son, who is mutable, must, therefore, be deemed a creature who has been called into existence out of nothing and has had a beginning. Moreover, the Son can have no direct knowledge of the Father, since the Son is finite and of a different order of existence.


While that may not sound bad at a glance, what this philosophy effectively does is reduce Christ to a creation, not the immortal and Divine Son of God. This brings the question into play about our redemption: Could the sacrifice of a created being be sufficient to bring about our redemption and open the gates of heaven?


Arians did not believe in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity. On that point they believed that: God, the Father, ("unbegotten" God; Almighty God) always existing and who is the only true God. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, ("only-begotten god"), was begotten before time began. The Holy Spirit is the illuminating and sanctifying power of God. Here there come into play two very important terms in Trinitology (theological study of the Trinity) and Christology. The two terms are: Homoiousios – which implies that Christ is of similar, but not identical essence or substance with God the Father. This was what the Arians believed, that Christ was begotten of the Father but not consubstantial. The other term is Homoousion – which implies that Jesus is the same in essence or substance as God the Father as the Holy Spirit is also. This is what the Church taught and believed and what was defended by St. Athanasius, St. Anthony and the other Church Fathers.


This is one of the reasons why I was so happy with the proper translations for the Mass in 2011. While many referred to the translations that changed the responses and such at Mass as “new”, the fact is these translations are actually “correct”. Most do not know that when the Mass was translated into English the translations were intentionally not exact and this has caused nothing but confusion. I would have to say that the former versions of the English Mass, the translations were some of the absolute worst translations I have ever seen in any language of official Church teachings or documents. Trust me, it was that bad. In the former translation of the Nicene Creed the original Latin term which is translated into English as the term “con-substantial” was changed to “one in being” and those terms do not equate exactly. It was as if a subtle touch of Arianism was put forward in order to get us to see Christ in a particular way, not exactly as the Son of God who is Divine and therefore, we can be more lax in the respect for Him. However, when talking of or teaching about God, we have an obligation to be as correct and precise as possible.


This is something I would like all of us to do this weekend at Mass in particular, to really focus on the Nicene Creed we recite after the homily. Open up the missalette and read over the words that we profess or close your eyes as you say them and really try and focus on them. As we recite that creed, we are reciting the truth in regard to who Christ is, to what our Church teaches and what we believe.


God Love you, Fr. Anthony

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