The doctrinal heresy known as Arianism was originated by an Alexandrian area bishop named Arius (c. 250-c. 336), and its refutation was critical in the early church's development of Trinitarian theology. Although Arius was excommunicated for his teachings, some of his followers (including Eusebius of Nicomedia) continued to forward the credo after the Council of Nicea (AD 325) and up to the First Council of Constantinople (AD 381, both of which produced what is known today as The Nicene Creed). Although the heresy was relatively extinguished from orthodoxy by the latter, modern unbiblical organizations (such as the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses) can be found teaching Arianism, despite its non-biblicity and Christianity's longstanding and universal opposition to the teaching.
The Teaching Summarized
Arius' doctrine was an advanced form of Dynamic Monarchianism (Adoptionism), based on the strict oneness of God taught in God's Word. Unlike prior Dynamic Monarchians who taught that Christ achieved deity during his earthly ministry, Arius instead taught that Christ was made deity in a preexistence (much like the Gnostics, who viewed God as so transcendent that he could not directly create a material world without an intermediary). Christ, Arius insisted, was a special first divine creation of God, who was homoiousios (of like essence) with the Father, but not homoousios (of the same essence). To Arius, Christ's full deity would have equaled two Gods, when only the Father was the One God. Arius' formulation of this teaching, though, was a denial of the full Deity of Christ, since God is eternal and any created being could not therefore be truly God.
Much of Arius' support for his false teaching were backed by the various teachings of the Bible regarding Christ's humanity and the "weaknesses" therein (temptation, suffering, death, etc...). Because Arius left no room for a union of two natures in the person of Christ, these weaknesses, Arius taught, were proof that Christ was not God. Proper understanding of the God-Man Person of Christ would have avoided such errant uses of the scriptures.
The Church condemned Arius' teaching through the Niceno-Constantinopolitan councils of the early church. Arius' critical error in applying the Oneness of God was that He failed to recognize that the Being of God is One, rather than that God the Father is One. Had he taught the former, God's oneness would have been preserved, while allowing for His expression in three Persons who are each fully God (what is known today as the Trinity).
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