His rudest critics called him “The Black Dwarf.” Athanasius was a dark-skinned Egyptian bishop who had few friends and plenty of enemies. He was exiled from the church five times by four Roman emperors, spending almost half of his 45 years as bishop of Alexandria in exile.
The reason for Athanasius’ exile-upon-exile was his persistence in declaring Arianism, the church’s most cherished theological thought of the day, as a heresy.
Arianism is named after a priest from Libya who, when describing the doctrine of the Trinity, falsely claimed that “if the Father begat the Son, then he who was begotten had a beginning in existence, and from this it follows there was a time when the Son was not.” Regardless of its inconsistencies with the fullness of Scripture, this theological thought spread like wildfire throughout the land. In fact, many Christians were heard singing a tune that echoed Arius’ view: “There was a time when the Son was not.” Even today, there are few in the church who repeat Arius’ views despite the fact that Jesus Himself said He was God (John 10:30,John 17:11, etc.).
During the spread of this false doctrine, Athanasius was serving Jesus and His church as the chief deacon assistant to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. These two men contended against Arius, exposing that his views denied the Trinity. Opposing Arius’ notion that Christ had an origin and came out of the Father, Alexander and Athanasius argued that Christ and the Father have always been eternally united as one in the Godhead (Colossians 1:16,Hebrews 1:1-2, etc.).
THE TRINITY: AN ESSENTIAL DOCTRINE
Athanasius contended that the doctrine of the Trinity was no minor, non-essential matter. Only one who was both fully human and fully God could atone for our our sin and depravity and hold the power to save us. The Christian understanding of salvation was at hand. Athanasius famously argued, “Those who maintain that there was a time when the Son was not rob God of His Word, like plunderers.”
COUNCIL OF NICEA
The opposing thoughts caused so much controversy that the newly converted Emperor Constantine the Great intervened in 325 A.D. to call the Council of Nicea. He was cited as saying, “Division in the church is worse than war.” The council, comprised of around 300 bishops, drafted the first copy of the Nicene Creed. Athanasius had grown to be the most prolific writer on Nicene orthodoxy and orthodox Trinitarian doctrine. He saw major flaws in Arius’ writings and called his heresy the “forerunner of the Antichrist” (Athanasius, Orations Ar. 1:1).
The council ultimately condemned Arius as a heretic, exiled him from the church, and considered it illegal to possess his writings. Finally, peace was restored in the church and orthodox Christian beliefs were unified. Athanasius was hailed as a “noble champion for Christ.”
But this didn’t last long.
Within months, Arius’ supporters convinced Emperor Constantine into ending Arius’ exile. When Athanasius conversely defended the doctrine of the Trinity and refused to recognize Arius and his writings back into God’s church, Arius and others began to spread false charges against him, including sorcery and treason. This accusation of treason forced Constantine to exile Athanasius from the land.
When Constantine died a few years later, Athanasius was restored to his post in Alexandria. But by this time, Arianism had become the dominant position of the day. He was banished and exiled four more times over the next several years.
EVERY STORY HAS A HAPPY ENDING
Okay, so not every story has a happy ending. But this one does. By the time he was in his 70s, elderly Athanasius was permanently restored to his position in the church at Alexandria. During his exile, Athanasius wrote many books, including a biography on St. Antony that is considered the most historically reliable to this day. God used this biography to help lead many unbelievers to belief in Christ including St. Augustine. It also put him back in favorable light with the church.
Among his writings, Athanasius wrote a list of what he believed were the 27 divinely-inspired books of the New Testament. By the grace of God, his list is the one that the church eventually adopted and agreed with. And as far as Arianism is concerned, its lack of biblical basis led to its own demise. And as God has always been faithful to do, the gospel truths of Scripture prevailed throughout the ages, including the doctrine of the Trinity, which Athanasius so faithfully defended for so many years.
Jerry S. saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 4:49 am
As in all things, we thank GOD for Constantine and the Council at Nicea for informing The Church what to think and believe. Unity at all costs…not.
stephanos saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 6:08 am
I suggest sarcasm is out of place with thanksgiving to God. It may be something for you to reconsider, regardless of your views about church history or any councils. Satire when speaking about Almighty God is dangerous ground.
Jerry S. saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 10:03 am
In all sincerity, thanks for making my point friend.
Dorothy saysFebruary 15, 2013 at 7:40 am
I agree! Very dangerous to speak against the WOG & Jesus & Holy Spirit.
Jerry S. saysFebruary 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm
Speaking against?? Maybe in your mind, not mine. Sweetheart, I am as sincere as I can be. I do give thanks to GOD for all things. If the GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Israel can use the actions of the Nimrod’s, Pharaoh’s, Balak’s, Pilate’s, etc. of history to achieve HIS purpose. HE can use Constantine too and believe me, I’m grateful for it.
Am I sensing the threat and heavy hand of excommunication over my head as described in the post? Because as I understand the WOG it is only the BLOOD shed on the tree that allows and affords me or anyone else for that matter, entrance before the throne of the KING of the Jews, Popes notwithstanding.
Edie Johnson saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 5:30 am
Although the Council of Nicea had many good points, didn’t it also cause further division in stating that the “Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father ‘and’ the Son”? This is a contradiction of what Jesus said in John 15:26
Chris saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm
Exactly, they didn’t know what to do about the Holy Ghost until 50 years later at the Council of Constantinople. The Holy Spirit/Spirit of God/God is a spirit/spirit of Christ/spirit of Grace are all synonymous.
God’s spirit is called the “Holy” Spirit because it describes God’s nature of holiness. It is NOT describing another PERSON. God who is a spirit overshadowed the virgin Mary and had a baby–EMMANUEL=God is with us. This act made the God the father of Jesus–which made Jesus the Son of God–or God manifested in the flesh.
When the Bible speaks of God in action it usually describes the “Spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit” at work. This is not another person, but a description of God at work in the hearts and lives of His people.
Jesus,the man, was made “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2) and was able, as the Son of Man, to “pour out the Holy Ghost.” When Jesus died, rose again, and was glorified he “sat down on the right hand of God” and poured out the Holy Ghost (God’s spirit) upon believers. This is not talking about some type of Trinity of PERSONS working together to redeem mankind, but shows the beautiful redeeming power of God.
God became a man, Chris Jesus. The man died, but the “God in the man” raised Jesus from the dead. The flesh was glorified, and sat down on the right hand of God (which means that the man became LORD).
When we get to heaven we will not see some big shining light and say that’s God…we will see God’s glory in THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST for all eternally. We will see JESUS and Jesus only on the throne.
I have a spirit…that does not mean that there are TWO PERSONS in me. God is a spirit and when we talk about God’s spirit, we refer to it as “The Holy Spirit” to delineate it from other spirit. There is the Anti-Christ and the “spirit of the anti-christ.” That does not make two of them. The anti-christ will be the spirit of Satan embodied in flesh….sound similar? It is. Satan will mimick what God did in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that “God was in CHRIST, reconciling the world to Himself.” Jesus was Deity covered with flesh. Jesus was God incarnate. There is only One God, He manifested Himself in the person of our Jesus Christ. In Jesus is the FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY (COL 2:9).
Chris saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm
sorry about the typos…I’m on break….and gotta go.
brian saysFebruary 15, 2013 at 9:06 am
Hi Chris. You make your points well. Your argument sounds like modalism to me, though.
Chris saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 7:43 am
This article is really leaving a lot out. The early church never believed in the Trinity. They did not believe in Arianism either. The early church believed that Jesus was simply God manifested in the flesh (I Tim 3:16). Even the thought of the Logos being separate from the “Father” did not come about for over one hundred years after Christ–by Justin Martyr–a man who wore the philosopher’s robe. It would not be until 325AD, at the Council of Nicaea that the idea of the separation of the Father and Son was more firmly established. It was not until the Council of Constantinople in 381AD that the doctrine was FINALLY worked out and cemented. Read any Catholic encyclopedia and it will even tell you that the dogma of the Trinity evolved over several centuries. It protected the deity of Christ, yet split God up into 3 people.
This means that it took over 300 YEARS for our “Church Fathers” to figure out who Jesus was and what the Early Church believed concerning Christ and the Godhead. So, I guess, that means that Peter, James, and John, and even the great Apostle Paul did not understand who Jesus really was…? No, they all know that Jesus was God manifested in the Flesh. John said that Jesus was the WORD (Logos–the mind, blueprint, plan of God) not another person.
The Bible does not teach 3 PERSONS in the GODHEAD, but ONE GOD who MANIFESTED Himself in three ways: FATHER, Son, and Spirit. I am a father, a son, and a husband, but I am not three persons, but one. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are TITLES of God. The Jews wanted to stone Jesus because “he being a man, made himself God.” To say he was the Son of God is to say that he is God. Did you know that NOWHERE in the Bible the term “God the Son” is found? That is a term developed by Trinitarian thinkers.
Ironically, even Tertullian khe said that the “majority of believers” during his day believed that God manifested himself like this. He called this belief “Modalism.” Apparently, this concept of God was too simple for his great intellect and not too appealing to the great minds of the day–that felt they had to have an intellectual answer that reviled the Greeks.
There were other thinkers about the Godhead at the Council of Nicea as well. It’s really disheartening to think that the government had to step in to settle a doctrinal matter. The Modalists were left out of the conversation. Constantine crowed a winner and exiled the rest!!!
Jerry S. saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm
Mat 16:13-17 HNV, Yeshua is the promised Hebrew Messiah. Too many verses showing this to list here.
Whatever was decided by Gentile Believers 2 to 3 centuries later to create a structure of power similar to what Yeshua found while in Jerusalem has no more or less credibility than what the Holy Spirit speaks to you or me. Yeshua will sit in judgment of our rights and wrongs, not Constantine. We only need to review “Church” history to see for yourself.
Chris saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm
Wait one second, what the Spirit says to you and me does matter, for the Bible says that the Spirit will lead and guide us into all truth.
Jerry S. saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm
You’re mis-reading my point. Church Fathers have no more in sight or understanding of the Holy Spirit than you or I do.
Chris saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm
Ok, got you. But, I would still have to disagree with you…. Since the Holy Spirit is actually the Spirit of Jesus/Christ/God then when I RECEIVED THE Holy Spirit, it began teaching me things in accordance with the Bible. I understand many things about God and His ways because of the Holy Spirit. I Cor teaches us that the Spirit helps us understand the “deep things of God.”
But, when it comes to the “mechanics,” so-to-speak of the Spirit, I have no idea. I don’t even know how my spirit works! 🙂
Eric saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm
I agree. Let your Bible be the final authority!
Jerry S. saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 1:06 pm
Disagree with me about what? I did not write anything about excluding scripture. As a matter of fact, I would like to see more of it and not what “Church Fathers” tell us it says.
brian saysFebruary 15, 2013 at 9:11 am
Chris, I see I jumped the gun in my comment above. Posted it before reading on.
Marc saysFebruary 15, 2013 at 7:48 pm
The idea of three divine persons is foreshadowed in the Old Testamant. Jesus the rock in the dessert whom Moses struck. The glory cloud that overshadowed the temple, and God walking with man in the garden. Many many more.
Have you ever read Justin Martyr’s “First Apology”?
Chris saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm
Sorry, I see your point now….I thought you were saying that the Christians can not know anything about the Holy Spirit. My bust.
Jerry S. saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm
10-4, too much of our faith is nothing more than feelings and emotion from our so called intellect and the thrill we receive when we are swept away with them and not enough logical common sense thinking. False teaching rests on that foundation of the flesh. As someone advised me above, it’s dangerous ground, Mat 10:16 HNV.
Chris saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 2:18 pm
You got it. Jesus said, “In the Spirit and Truth.” My experience must be brought into harmony with TRUTH. As a Pentecostal, that matters the most.
Mark Hayes saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm
I praise God for His Word. It is living and powerful, sharper than a double edged sword and piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow. Hebrews 4:12
Thank you Chris for sharing this about Athanasius. I realise I know very little of some of those held in repute in our Lord’s Church outside of what is written in the Bible. I praise God that there are men down through the ages who are willing to stand for God’s doctrine, and bring correction.
As is written “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16
Concerning God the Father, Jesus the Son of God and the Holy Spirit
1 John 5:7 “For there are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one”
In Greek this is written…
‘eisi treis martyreō en ouranos’ meaning
“there exists three to bear witness (or to utter honourable testimony) in heaven”
In John 14:16 The Lord Jesus tells us that He will pray to the Father and He will give you another (Greek =allos for another) Helper…
I see no problem by scripture teaching us that indeed God is one Spirit but He is the three, God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit…
Yet admittedly my mind boggles when I try to, in human intellect rationalise this.. as I am just incapable of understanding by other than what the Spirit teaches through His Word and by my own experience of faith with God and how He reveals Himself to me…..
Oh the unsearchable riches of His glory! Praise be to Jesus Christ who is our truth and Teacher and God’s Holy Spirit whom the Lord sealed me with who alone can keep me in the truth.
Blessing in Christ
Chris saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 5:02 pm
Be so kind to let me give you my understanding of I John 5:7.
There are three that bear record in heaven, but this does not mean that these “three” are PERSONS any more than the three different jobs I have had in my life make me three different persons.
Here is a little story to clarify this. In the state department there are three documents that bear witness of me: my doctoral degree, my teacher license, and my birth certificate. These three different things bear witness of me. They show/tell people who I am and what I have done. When in judgement of who I am and what I have done comes to trial, these three witnesses will stand for themselves and show people who I am, but I am still ONE PERSON = THESE THREE are ONE, not THREE.
A fool, though, wayfaring man will not err therein. We can understand the Godhead, and the Mighty God in Christ. (Is 9:6).
The “mystery of Godliness” is not in trying to understand a trinity, but in trying to understand HOW GOD BECAME MAN (I Timothy 3:16).
It is when the early “fathers” starting trying to rationalize this that they started separating the Godhead into the Three and One formula.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
Jesus is saying that HE IS THE SPIRIT/GOD.
Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
A few verses before Jesus says that he is the FATHER.
Father= the creative nature of God
Son= God in flesh, to redeem mankind
Holy Ghost= God in spiritual action
father= I can create.
son= I am my father’s child
my spirit= the inner invisible nature inside me.
Not three people, but three modes of God.
If the Holy Ghost overshadowed the virgin Mary, then that makes the Holy Ghost the FATHER, which means that Jesus had two daddies! 🙂
gina saysFebruary 15, 2013 at 7:12 am
If They are not 3 different Persons then I don’t understant why Jesus cried out on the cross “My God, My God why have Your forsaken Me”
rojo saysFebruary 17, 2013 at 7:55 pm
Ok let’s base our belief on your experience, or the Word of God on your experience. NO people, we base our belief on the Word, I don’t care about what your experience is telling you, what does the word say.
What part of that verse in missing in the steven’s text? do you know?
Half that verse isn’t there, crazy, you ever ask yourself why and how those words got there?
mmmmmmmmm Study when those words became the Word of God.
What date? Was is after 325 AD? do you know?
Tess saysFebruary 14, 2013 at 10:36 pm
Absolutely wonderful!! Thank you all and God bless you! Such wonderful sharing and I’m so very blessed by it all. It’s such a beautiful truth and one that satan puts great effort into attacking. You all truly defend the faith so well.
Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord,
Through which the righteous shall enter.
I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Dorothy saysFebruary 15, 2013 at 7:58 am
I enjoy reading articles explaining the WOG from the perspective how others believe and received revelations & inspirations. God is true to His spoken & written word. He is the Rock we can stand upon daily.
Tess saysFebruary 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm
Jesus IS God. Below is a wonderful KHouse/Chuck Missler study on this topic.
jeezusgurl saysMarch 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm
JESUS IS LORD AND KING !