Arius and Athanasius were archrivals of the Arian controversy. Arius was the leading father in Arianism whilst Athanasius was the defender of the Nicene Theology for orthodox Christianity against Arianism. As Arianism rejects the divinity of Christ, salvation to mankind was at stake. Athanasius advocates the consubstantiality of the three persons of the trinity which was crucial argument to defend the divinity of Christ. Consequently Athanasius had built the ground of the Trinitarian and Christological doctrine which together with the humanity of Christ represents the complete Trinitarian theology.
The fourth century church experienced a major crisis in understanding God’s divine nature, characteristics and relationship with members of the Godhead. This Arian controversy centred upon two archrival theologians, Arius and Athanasius.1 The controversy represented a new phase of doctrinal development of the Godhead and led to the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the Church’s first ecumenical statement of the Trinity. 2 Athanasius was the champion of Nicene Theology, who greatly defended the traditional Christianity against the Arian heresy.3 Section II of this essay will briefly discuss the background of Arius, and summarize his basic theology. Section III will provide an overview about Athanasius’s life, Athanasius’ theology in conjunction with his defence against the Arians’ heretic claims. Finally, the conclusion will be drawn in Section IV.
II. THE ARIAN CONTROVERSY
The ‘Arian controversy’ ignited in 318, when Arius openly taught his heretic teachings that denied the full divinity of the Son. Consequently, Arius challenged his bishop (Alexander of Alexandria) and teachers of Alexandria to an Christological conflict.4 The controversy lasted for nearly half a century and became the confrontation between the two archrivals, the ‘Nicene party’ and Origenists.5 Athanasius coined the names ‘Arian’ and ‘Arians’ as pejorative political and theological slurs against Arius and his opponents, who disagreed with him on the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, and those meant the Son as a creature or held fast to Arius’ basic position. Cf. Thomas G. Weinandy, Athanasius: a Theological Introduction (Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing, 2007), 51-52. Donald K. McKim, Theological Turning Points: Major Issues in Christian Thought (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988), 14.
Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of The Reformation (3 vols.,
New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1984, Vol. 1), 173. Johannes Quasten, Pathology: The Golden Age of
Greek Patristic Literature. From the Council of Nicaea to the council of Chalcedon (Utrecht, Netherlands:
Spectrum Publishers, 1963, Vol. III), 66.
Bruce L. Shelly, Church History in Plain Language (2nd Ed., Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1995), 100.
Everett Ferguson (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Early Christianity (New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1990), 8485, 92.
The controversy roots lay deep in “the differences of the ante-Nicene doctrine of the
Logos,” especially in the two contradictory half truths of Origen’s Christology, which was
claimed by both archrivals ― the full divinity of Christ and his eternal distinctness from
the Father.6 Conclusively, the Arians were the catalysts, rather than the main participants.7
II.1. ARIUS AND HIS DOCTRINE
Trained in the Lucian School, Arius was called one of the heretical fathers of Arianism.8 Arianism was a heretical doctrine of theological rationalism, based on the teachings of Lucian of Antioch, Paul of Samosata, and Neoplatonic theory of subordinationism.9 Arius wrote very little and only a few fragments survived. Thalia was his only own writing which Athanasius recited.10 Most information about Arius’ life and his doctrine came from Athanasius’ writings.11
Influenced by Origen, Arius rejected the term όμοούσιος (consubstantial) and insisted the concrete and distinct three persons (πστασις) of the Godhead, a separate essence and the subordination of the Son to Father.12 Nicene split the church into two major groups: 1) The ‘Nicene party’― consisted of the West, the school of Antioch and other in the East like Athanasius. They affirmed the full deity of Jesus Christ, but were less clear on the eternal threeness of the Godhead. They did not deny the distinction between Father, Son and Holy Spirit (i.e. they were not Monarchians), but they did not state it as forcefully as the Origenists wanted and so appeared to them to be Monarchian. (2) The Origenists ― were strong on the threeness of the Godhead, but less clear on the deity of Jesus Christ. They were not Arians (i.e. they did not see Jesus Christ as a creature made out of nothing), but they held him to be inferior to the Father and so appeared Arian to the Nicene party. Cf. Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought (Rev. ed., London: T&T Clark, 2006), 30. Philip Schaff, ‘Arianism’ in A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology (3rd ed.; Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894, Vol. 1) 134137. Cf. http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/arianism-schaff.html (29 April 2010).
Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought, 30-31. Philip Schaff, ‘Arianism’ in A Religious
Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 134-137. Cf.
http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/arianism-schaff.html (29 April 2010).
Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 7.
Ephiphanius, Panarion 69,4. Theodoret, Historia ecclesiastica, 1,4. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 15.
Note: Scholars still debate over the ideological forerunner of Arius’ doctrine, whether it was derived from the
theories of Origen, or of Paul of Samosata, or of Lucian of Antioch. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 2, 6-8.
Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos, I.5,6; Athanasius, De Synodis, 15. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for
Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark Ltd., 1988), 11.
And a few sources from the church historians of the fourth and fifth centuries, and from the letters of St.
Basil and of Epiphanius of Salamis. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 10-13.
Philip Schaff, ‘Arianism’ in A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal,
and Practical Theology, 134-137. John Behr, The Way to Nicaea: The Formation of Christian Theology (3
vols.; Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001, Vol. 1), 200-201.
Arius denied all internal divine relations existing between the Father and the Son ― the
eternal deity of Christ and his equality with the Father (όμοούσια).13
II.2. A SUMMARY OF ARIUS’ THEOLOGY
Arius’ basic doctrine:14 (1) Godhead is uncreated, unbegotten (γννητος), without beginning;15 (2) The Son of God cannot be truly God. The Son is the first of God’s creatures, a secondary God, “god by participation.” Like the other creations, “the Son is not unbegotten (γννητος),” “he is one of the things fashioned and made,” 16 brought out ex nihilo (ξ οκ ντων). “There was a time when the Son of God was not (ν τε οκ ν).”17 “Neither does the Son indeed know his own substance as it is,” “he was created for our sake, rather than we for his.” “He is the Son of God not in the metaphysical, but in the moral sense of the word.”18 By the will of God, the Son has “his statute and character (ἥλικος καἰ σος).” “The Son is by his nature; changeable, mutable, equally with other
rational beings.” The Father is ‘ineffable to the Son; for neither does the Word (Logos)
perfectly and accurately know the Father, neither can he perfectly see Him (the Father).”19
(3) “The title of God is improper for the Son of God, since the only true God adopted him
as Son in prevision of his merits.” This sonship by adoption insists “no real participation
in the divinity and no true likeness to it;” Thus, the absolute and eternal divinity of Christ
Epiphanius, Panarion 69.6.1ff. Theodoret of Cyrus, Haereticarum fabularum compendium (History of
Heresies) I.5. Cf. Philip Schaff, ‘Arius’ in A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical,
Doctrinal, and Practical Theology,139. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 7-8.
Epiphanius, Panarion 69,6. Theodoret, Historia ecclesiastica, 1,5,1-4. Athanasius, De Synodis 15.
Socrates, Historia ecclesiastica, 1,6. Gelasius of Cyzicus, Historia conc. Nic. 2,3. Cf. Johannes Quasten,
Pathology, 8, 14, 15-16.Cf. Athanasius, Epistula encyclical ad episcopos Aegypti et Libyae, 12. Athanasius,
NPNG2-04. Athanasius: Select Work and Letters (Philip Schaff ed.; Grand Rapids, Mi: Christian Classics
Ethereal Library, 1892), 229. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204/Page_229.html (25 April 2011).
Theodoret, Historia ecclesiastica, 1.4.1. See also the conclusion in Arius’ first Letter to Eusebius of
Nicomedia. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 10.
Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 16.
See the Arius’ conclusion in his first Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia. Athanius, De Synodis, II.26. Cf.
Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 10. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian
Controversy 318-381, 8.
Athanasius, Ad Episcopos Aegypti 12. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 16. Maurice F. Wiles, Archetypal
heresy: Arianism through the centuries, 8.
Italic words are mine. Athanasius, De Synodis 15. Cf. Maurice F. Wiles, Archetypal heresy: Arianism
through the centuries, 7. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy
is to be denied.20 (4) The Logos is created by God as the instrument of creation. The Logos
holds a middle place between God and the world is made flesh by the will of the Father and
fulfilled in Jesus Christ the function of a soul, “though divine, was less than fully divine.” 21
(5) The Holy Spirit is the first creature of the Logos, and is still less God than the Word.
III. ATHANASIUS AND HIS THEOLOGY
Though Athanasius was not a systematic theologian, his greatest dedication in life was the fierce defence of orthodox Christianity against the Arian heresy. 22 He was “so identified with the cause that the successive history of the Arian controversy is best told by following Athanasius’ life.”23 The three discourses of Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos, were his main dogmatic writings targeted against Arianism.24 The first discourse contained the definition of the Nicene Council ― there is a unity of divine essence between the Father and the Son, and the Son is eternal, increated (γννητος) and unchangeable.25
Athanasius, De Synodis, 15. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 8. Cf. the following citation: “The leaders in the Arian movement (Arius himself, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Maris and Theognis) received their training under Lucian and always venerated him as their master and the founder of their system. Later critics of Lucian, including Alexander of Alexandria, during the Council of Nicaea in 325, associated his school with Arius’s rejection of the absolute divinity of Christ. No one before Lucian of Antioch and Arius had taught that the Logos is categorically different from God.” of ‘Lucian of Antioch’ in New Word Encyclopedia. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Lucian_of_Antioch (10 April 2011).
Cf. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381, 100-101.
Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 67-68.
Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 66.
Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, 166.
Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 26.
Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 26.
The systematic and reliable ancient account of Athanasius could be found in the
framework, such as Historia acephala and Festal Index.26
Ordained as deacon to his bishop Alexander in Alexandria, Athanasius accompanied
Alexander to the Council at Nicaea (325). Later he succeeded Alexander and became the
bishop of Alexandria (328-373).27 Athanasius, as a leading Christian writer of NeoAlexandrine School, adopted the historic-grammatical interpretation of Scripture (which
the School of Antioch advocated) in all polemical and theological controversy with the
The Arians enlisted the support of secular power and corrupt church authority to silence and destroy Athanasius. When Athanasius refused Constantine’s order to readmit Arius to communion, his opponents launched all kind of allegations, causing calumnies further to increase.29 For instance, under the influence of Eusebius of Nicomedia, the bishops of the Tyrian Synod condemned Athanasius with charges which he could not escape. They exiled Athanasius to Trier and restored Arius to church communion and reinstate him into the rank of the clergy.30
The history about Athanasius’ life is also found in his own writings and the Syriac introduction to his Festal Letters, also in Historia acephala or called Historia Athanasii, Gregory Nazianzen’s Oration 21, and some fragments of a Coptic eulogy. Cf. Timothy D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire (2nd Printing 1994; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 5. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 20.
‘Athanasius’ in Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t100.e116 (18 March 2011). Cf. David Hugh Farmer, ‘Athanasius’ in The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003). Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 2, 20. Timothy D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire, 1.
Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 2, 20.
Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 20-21.
Athanasius was firstly charged with murder (sorcery and murder of Arsenius, a Meletian bishop in the Thebaid). His second charge was a political kind (he had threatened to stop the Alexandrian corn-ships).His third charge was his order to assault the presbyter Ischyras. Cf. ‘St. Athanasius – (ca. 297 – 373), Patriarch of Alexandria’ in Christian Classic Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/athanasius (18 March 2011). Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 9. Archibald Robertson, Select Writings and Letters of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria: Edited, with Prolegomena, Indices, and Titles (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Cushing-Malloy Inc., 1978), lxxxvi. John Behr, The Nicene Faith Part1, 165-166. For the letter, see H.I. Bell, Jesus and Christians in Egypt (London: 1924), 53-71.
Because of Arian controversy, Athanasius spent seventeen of his forty-five years as bishop in five different exiles.31 This situation happened, probably “because his Defence against the Arians gave so full an account.”32 Athanasius was likened to “a modern gangster,” “an unscrupulous politician,”33 because of “his oppressive and violent authoritative nature.”34 However he had never been formally charged with heresy,35 and some mentioned that he was the “pillar of the church;”36 And the Roman Church hailed him among the four great
Fathers of the East.37
III.2. ATHANASIUS’ THEOLOGY
Alexander and his successor Athanasius laid emphasis on Origen’s insistence on the Son’s eternal divinity related to the existence of God as Father rather than creator, which had led to the Nicene doctrine of the identity of substance (όμοούσια). Athanasius prioritized faith over reason, contrary to Arians’ rationalistic tendency.38 Athanasius’ theological approach was centred on Soteriology.39 He was committed to monotheism.40 But Arius’ account of God was incoherent since on one interpretation it was similar to the radical Judaic monotheism, and the other interpretation of it (one that emphasized “the Son is god in some secondary sense”) was equivalent to a kind of polytheism ― two gods, namely one God who is ingenerate and 31 Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought, . Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 20. ‘St. Athanasius – (ca. 297 – 373), Patriarch of Alexandria’ in Christian Classic Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/athanasius (18 March, 2011). See also, Timothy D. Barnes, Athanasius and
Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire, 20. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381, 239-273, 422. Cf. David M. Gwynn, The Eusebians: The Polemic of Athanasius of Alexandria and the Construction of the ‘Arian Controversy’ (Oxford Theological Monographs; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 2. Maurice F. Wiles, Archetypal heresy: Arianism through the centuries, 6. John Behr, The Nicene Faith Part 1, 167. Cf. Adolf Harnack, History of Dogma, (6 vols; trans. Neil Buchanan; New York: Dover Publications,1961, Vol. 4), 62. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/harnack/dogma4.ii.ii.i.i.iii.html (25 April 2011).
Gregory of Nazianzus, The Orations 21, 26. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 20. The four great Fathers of the Eastern Church ― John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Athanasius of Alexandria ― were recognized in 1568 by Pope St. Pius V. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 20. ‘Church Fathers’ in Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_of_the_Church (6 April 2011).
Athanasius, In Illud ‘Omnia mihi tradita sunt’, 6. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 66. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God, 423. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God, 425.
one who is generated. This resulted in two incongruous accusations against the Arians that
they were no better than Jews and that they were identical with pagans. 41
Unlike the Arians, who needed the Son as a lower god to reconcile an incomparable and
impassable God with the Scriptural message that God suffered for humankind’s salvation,
Athanasius dealt with the self-revelation of God who had come into the closest contact
with His creation (Jn 14:9).42
Athanasius endeavoured to substantiate “the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the
Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the
Fathers kept.” Athanasius maintained, “I have delivered the tradition, without inventing
anything extraneous to it.” The tradition was that the one God is a Triad.43
At the heart of Athanasius’s theology of Incarnation lay his doctrine of Trinity,44 summed up as follows: There is a Trinity, holy and complete, consistent, eternal and indivisible in nature, not composed of one that creates and one that originated, but all creative, called to be God in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father does all things “through the Word (the Son) in the Holy Spirit”. Their activity is one, and their unity is preserved. The Trinity is Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos III.67, I.17, 18, III.16. Maurice F. Wiles, Archetypal heresy: Arianism through the centuries, 8. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381, 424-425.
R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God, 426.
Athanasius, Epistulae IV ad Serapionem episcopum Thmuitanum, I, 28-33. Cf. Johannes Quasten,
Pathology, 66. Brian LePort, An Introduction to the Letters of Serapion on the Holy Spirit by Athanasius of
on_on_the_Holy_Spirit_by_Athanasius_of_Alexandria. (21 April 2011).
Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos III.15; Athanasius, NPNG2-04. Athanasius: Select Work and Letters, 402. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204/Page_402.html (20 April 2011). R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381, 424-425.
“not only in name and form of speech but in truth and actuality.” Thus one God, “who is overall (Eph. 4:6), and through all and in all.”45 Athanasius constantly defended the ontological unity of the Father and the Son through his Scriptural argument. He proved the divinity of Christ and of Holy Spirit,46 because “if we participate in Christ, we must then participate in God, if our redemption is to be assured.” 47 Athanasius refuted Arius’ claims that the Son was a creature and had come into being from ‘non-existence’, and that “there was a time when He was not.” Athanasius argued that there can be only one Son ― the eternal Word and Wisdom of the substance of God the Father, and that the Word is always coexistent with the Father, who is the creator and Lord of all, to whom all things owed their existence.48 Athanasius rejected the Arian position that the very name ‘Son’ presumes His being generated, and that the Son (the Word) is a work of the will of God for the creation of the world. Athanasius argued that to be begotten implies to be “an offspring of the Father’s essence, not of His will,” since “begetting in God differs from human begetting” because of God’s indivisibility.
Because the Son is in the Father and proper to Him, as the radiance in the light and stream from fountain, Athanasius asserted that the Son’s eternal relation to the Father is essential Italic words are mine. Athanasius, Epistulae IV ad Serapionem episcopum Thmuitanum, I, 2, 12, 14, 16, 19-20, 25, 27, 31; III, 15. Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos II.24, 25. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 66-67. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381, 427. Athanasius, De incarnation et contra Arianos, 13-19. Cf. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381, 422. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 29. Kurt Aland, A History of Christianity: From the Beginnings to the Threshold of the Reformation (Trans. James L. Schaaf, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980, Vol. 1), 191. Athanasius, Vita antonii, 69. Athanasius, Depositio Arii, 2, 3. Athanasius, Epistula de decretis Nicaenae synodi, 11. Athanasius, “On Luke X.22 (Matt. XI.27)” in In Illud ‘Omnia mihi tradita sunt’, 4. Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos, III.4; Cf. Athanasius, NPNG2-04. Athanasius: Select Work and Letters, 214. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204/Page_214.html (15 April 2011). Athanasius, NPNG2-04. Athanasius: Select Work and Letters, 70. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204/Page_70.html (15 April 2011). Athanasius, NPNG2-04. Athanasius: Select Work and Letters, 89. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204/Page_89.html (18 April 2011). Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 69. and not merely moral as Arius viewed.49 Also, Athanasius refuted the Docetic views of the
Arians and Apollonarians on the relationship of the historical Christ to the eternal Son. 50 Arius maintained, based on Proverbs 8:22ff, that the Son’s mediatory ontological status between God and creation was necessary, because “the Father was too high and mighty, or too proud to carry out the work of creation himself,” and “therefore begot the Son” as “the minister of the intentions of the Father.”51 However, Athanasius argued that the terms applied to the Incarnate and not the pre-existent Christ; Thus, Athanasius implied that the mediating activity of the Son is not in his position within the Godhead, but in his becoming Incarnate.
So, Athanasius placed the Son (Logos) on the side of God, opposite Arius’ placement of the Son on the side of the creatures.52 Athanasius insisted that “the Son has in common with the Father the fullness of the Father’s Godhead” and “the Son is entirely God.”53 Against Arius’ subordination of the Son, Athanasius argued that if the Son says, “The Father is greater than I,” He means that, “The Father is the origin, the Son the derivation.”54 “Eternally begotten, the Son is the Father’s substance, He is consubstantial to the Father, He is όμοούσιος.”55 Athanasius also rejected the term μοιος as unacceptable. So, Athanasius defended the term όμοούσιος against the Arians and Semi-Arians.56 Consequently, Athanasius disapproved what the Arians’ claim ― a ‘proceeding origin’ for the Father and the Son.57 Athanasius, Epistula ad Afros episcopos, 3-6. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 56, 67-68. Athanasius, Epistula ad Epictetum episcopum Corinthi, 9. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 59. Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos II.24-25. Cf. Maurice F. Wiles, Archetypal heresy: Arianism through the centuries, 8. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381, 101.
Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos, II.25; I.16; III.3, 6; II.41; III.3,4. Athanasius, Epistula ad Afros episcopos, 3-6. Cf. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318381, 424. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 67. Athanasius, Oratinones contra Arianos I.16; III.6. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 68. Athanasius, Oratinones contra Arianos III, 3; Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 69. Athanasius, De Synodis 41. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 69. Athanasius, De Synodis 41. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 69-70. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God, 434.
Logos and Redemption
Athanasius’ theology of the Logos centred upon the concept of redemption.58 For Athanasius, the redeeming will of God necessitated the incarnation of Christ and his death. If God Himself had not become man, and if Christ were not God, there would not have been redemption for mankind.59 This can only required that Christ was God by nature, not by participation, because the latter could never have formed the likeness of God in anyone. Thus, Athanasius refuted the Arian concept of the Son as “god by participation”.60
Athanasius’ theology upheld the real distinction between the divinity and humanity after the Incarnation, yet emphasized the personal unity of Christ. Consequently, whatever the Lord did as God and as human being belongs to the same person.61 Athanasius refuted the Arian charge of creature-worship directed against the Nicene Christology with the argument, that Catholics do not worship the humanity of Christ, but the Lord of creation, the Word Incarnate.62
By maintaining that the Spirit “is no creature, but is one with the Son as the Son is one with the Father, [the Spirit] is glorified with the Father and the Son, and confessed as God with the Word,” Athanasius rejected the idea of the Holy Spirit being one of the Athanasius, De incarnatione et contra Arianos, 9, 54. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 70-71. Athanasius, De incarnatione et contra Arianos, 8. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 71. Athanasius, De Synodis 51. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 71-72. Athanasius, De Sententia Dionysii 9. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology,72. Athanasius, Epistula ad Adelphium et confessorem, 3. Athanasius, “Letter LX. ― To Adelphius, Bishop and Confessor: against the Arians” in NPNG2-04. Athanasius: Select Work and Letters, 575. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204/Page_575.html (20 April 2011). Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, ministering spiritual creatures, and insisted the Godhead of the Holy Spirit according to the Nicene Creed.63 Athanasius defended the non-scriptural Nicene term όμοούσιος (consubstantial) and κ τς οσας (of the essence). He claimed that these terms were to be found in the Scripture, and they had already been used by the Church Fathers, including Tertullian, Origen, Dionysius of Rome, Dionysius of Alexandria and Theognostus.64 Against the claims of the heretic Arians and Tropicists, Athanasius gave the reasons for adopting the word όμοούσιος (consubstantial) for both the Son and the Spirit in relation to the Father, and proved that the Nicaea’s Trinitarian formula was in accordance with Scripture.65 Athanasius accused the Arians of teaching that God was not always a Trinity since the Son has not always existed, and also of dividing the Trinity because they attributed different natures to the Father and the Son.66
Arianism attacks the very nature of Christianity because it denotes “a God who was not a true God at all”, who was “in no position to communicate salvation” to humans, and therefore “incapable for redeeming mankind”.67 The Arian doctrine, which formed a canon Athanasius, Epistulae IV ad Serapionem episcopum Thmuitanum, I, 1, 15-21, 27, 31; III.1. Athanasius, Oratinones contra Arianos II, 25, 26, 73, 74. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 56, 67. For a discussion of Athanasius’s use of homoousious of the Spirit, see Kilian McDonald, The other hand of God: the Holy Spirit as the Universal Touch and Goal (Collegeville, Minnesota, USA: Liturgical Press, 2003), 18, 74, 126. Athanasius, Epistula de decretis Nicaenae synodi, 18. Athanasius, NPNG2-04. Athanasius: Select Work and Letters, 163. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204/Page_163.html (20 April 2011). Cf. Johannes
Quasten, Pathology, 61.
Epistula de decretis Nicaenae synodi (Letter Concerning the Decrees of the Council of Nicaea) was written about 350/351 and addressed by Athanasius to one of his friends, to whom the Arian claim had caused confusion. Whereas and Epistulae IV ad Serapionem episcopum Thmuitanum (the four letters concerning the Holy Spirit) was written by Athanasius around 359/360 and addressed to Serapion to refute the heretic tropicists, who opposed the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 57, 61. Kilian McDonald, The other hand of God: the Holy Spirit as the Universal Touch and Goal, 18. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381, 424. Athanasius, De synodis 51. Cf. Johannes Quasten, Pathology, 8. Maurice F. Wiles, Archetypal heresy: Arianism through the centuries, 7.
of scriptural misinterpretation, was a slander against the Fathers. 68 The worship which the Arians offered to God was a blasphemous idolatry. 69 Athanasius defended the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, successfully explained the nature and generation of the Logos, built the ground of the Trinitarian and Christological doctrine of the Church, and thus established the theological foundation for centuries to come.70
Athanasius’ Christological weakness
In his Christology, Athanasius did not assign any important role to the human soul of Christ. In fact, When the Arians objected the divinity of Christ by referring to the Scriptural passages which mention the inner suffering, fear and affliction of the Logos, Athanasius never made use the opportunity and never attacked the Arians in this error, because it dealt with the human soul of Christ. 71 Christ’s death is to Athanasius is a separation of Logos and body.72 Athanasius’ theology was based on Logos-Sarx theology. In relation to Orationes contra Arianos (III.35-37) its weakness was revealed when Athanasius could not comment to the Arians in: (1) the connecting link between the Logos and his flesh; (2) the existence of a human soul in Christ.73
Athanasius, De Sententia Dionysii 1. Cf. Maurice F. Wiles, Archetypal heresy: Arianism through the
Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos I.8, II.43, III.16. Athanasius, Ad Episcopos Aegypti 13. Cf. Maurice
F. Wiles, Archetypal heresy: Ari
Cite This Work
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below: