Arianism – What is it?
Arianism originates from a fourth century teacher named Arius who lived in Alexandria, Egypt. He was known as a voice in the dominant debate of early church history regarding the deity of Jesus. The debate was centered on the question of whether Jesus was God or a created being. Arius argued that Jesus was a created being with divine attributes rather than eternally divine. The end result of this debate was Arius being labeled a heretic at the Council of Nicea in 325 and the divine, eternal nature of Jesus being defined in the Nicene Creed.
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Arius believed that Jesus was a created being based on certain biblical passages that seemed to indicate this view. For instance, John 14:28 where Jesus says, "the Father is greater than I", which Arius used to support his claims. Arianism also uses Matthew 24:36 where Jesus mentioned not knowing the time of His return. However, it is clear elsewhere that Jesus is presented as divine (John 1:1; Colossians 1:16) and that the support for the view of Jesus being divine is much stronger than any other possible interpretation.
Arianism also uses a misunderstanding of the biblical teaching regarding the "firstborn" to perpetuate its teaching. In Romans 8:29, for example, Jesus is called the "firstborn," yet the context is not about His physical birth but instead speaks of Him going first before others who would place their faith in Him. Jesus Himself said He existed "before Abraham" (John 8:58) and that He was one with the Father (John 10:30). The Bible is abundantly clear that Jesus claimed to be God and that He is God.
Arianism as a teaching system or idea is also often mentioned as a view that stands in opposition to the traditional biblical teaching of the Trinity or Triune God that teaches there is one God existing in the three Persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant belief systems have opposed Arianism for centuries. However, the teachings of Arianism remain influential today in a variety of belief systems. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses accept the idea that Jesus was a created being, as does the Mormon Church. This idea has also influenced the rejection of the Trinity in both of these movements.
The affirmation of Jesus as divine, eternal God by the early Christian church leaders at the Council of Nicea clearly noted the standard view of Christ already understood in the early churches. Jesus taught this view, the Old Testament spoke of it (Isaiah 9:6), and the apostles wrote of it in the New Testament. Arius was an influential voice in his time, yet the misunderstanding of his beliefs was clearly not in line with biblical teaching. They were considered heretical in his time and continue to exist as a belief system outside of New Testament teachings.
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