The best way to ruin Alexander, in Arius’s estimation, was to paint him as a modalist, an advocate of what we called the Ant-Man heresy in the previous chapter. To clearly separate his position from that of Alexander, Arius proposed a theory of God that firmly separated Jesus from the Father. He began to teach that the Father and Son were so different that they were not only different persons, but were also different in essence. To make this even clearer, Arius proposed that the Father brought the Son into existence by creating him. By Arius’s way of thinking, the difference between the Father and the Son was the difference between Creator and creature. Arius did not deny that the Son was a god. The Son was certainly a god; he was just not the God. The Son was the first created being. After creating the Son, the Father used the Son to create )everything else. The Father also sent the Son to be born as a human at Bethlehem. So the Father is eternal, but the Son is not. The Son is similar to the Father in essence, but he is not the same. Make no mistake about it: According to Arius, the Father was superior to the Son; the Son was inferior to the Father. God is God, and the Son is a god, greater than any human, but not quite so great as God the Father. Kind of like Thor: a god, but not the God. Now, Alexander was no modalist, but he definitely was not going to go along with Arius’s wild ideas either. So he attempted to rally other bishops to his cause and take a stand against the teaching (and politics) of Arius. At one point, he invited a bunch of bishops to Alexandria to decide the issue and make a clear unified statement against Arius. Arius, however, was able to intimidate the bishops by inciting a riot. Crowds of people swarmed the city, carrying placards, singing, and chanting, “There was a time when the Son was not.” (Thus hooliganism was born even before the advent of soccer.) The net effect was that Alexander was not able to rally the church at large to his side to make a clear statement against Arius’s teaching. Arius had a few things going for him. First, he was a very capable, persuasive, and attractive communicator. Arius could work a room and call people to his side. Second, he had a few Bible verses that, taken in isolation, appeared to support his case. Passages such as Col 1:15, which says that Jesus Christ is the “firstborn over all creation,” and any passage that calls Jesus the “only begotten Son” (John 3:16. KJV; see also John 1:14; Heb 1:5) seemed to teach that the Son came into being like most everybody else. Third, and perhaps most important, his proposal was simple. As we discussed in chapter 3 , the Trinity is difficult to explain. Arius’s proposal was easy to understand: The Father created the Son. There was a time when the Son did not exist. The Son is inferior to the Father. Easy to understand, but neither accurate nor biblically faithful. Arius’s influence throughout the church was so great, and his ideas spread with such ferocity, that the church became unsettled. By this time, Christianity was well on its way to becoming the state religion of the Roman Empire. So, Constantine, the Roman emperor largely responsible for the Christianization of Rome, acted to bring some peace to the church. He could not have a controversy of this magnitude splitting his state religion. At his own expense, Constantine convened a council of bishops, in 325, in the city of Nicaea (located in modern-day Turkey), to settle the Arian controversy. About 300 bishops made the trip, and it was a momentous event, because some of the church leaders bore the physical scars of the persecution that Constantine had only recently ended. The bishops were divided into three groups. There were those loyal to Arius, who felt that the Father had a different essence than the Son; there was also a smaller group of bishops who saw Arianism as a threat to the Christian faith and wanted to clearly state that the Son has the same essence ( homoousios ) or nature as the Father; and then there was a large group of middle-ground bishops who wanted to bring an end to the dispute through compromise on both sides. Perhaps, these middle-ground bishops suggested, both sides could agree on the term “similar essence” ( homoiousios ). But to the anti-Arians, to be similar is not to be the same; to be similar is to be different, and they could not compromise. Eventually, the bishops who felt that Arius was completely wrong won the day; Arius was exiled; and the council issued what is now known as the Nicene Creed . We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance ( homoousios ) with the Father; by whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. 2 Notice the strong anti-Arian language. The Son was “begotten, not made.” The Son is “of one being [ homoousios ] with the Father.” It was a clear and decisive victory by an outnumbered group of bishops who were committed to holding steadfastly to what the Bible teaches.
Superhero’s can not save you by Todd Miles