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This is related, but intended to be a more specific version of this question.

The answer provides a pretty concise, Sunday-school refutation to Arianism, but it assumes a Trinitarian view.

From within an Arian theological framework, how does Christ fit into the work of human salvation?

Please provide Biblical and historical references as appropriate.

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I don't see why the linked answer is necessarily Trinitarian. It would also apply to other groups such as modalists or binitarians. –  Ryan Aug 29 '14 at 3:45
I assumed you, given the quote in your question. "... but it assumes a Trinitarian view." :) –  Ryan Sep 5 '14 at 2:22

1 Answer 1

up vote 11 down vote accepted

From Arius' own hand:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, and in the Lord Jesus Christ his son, who was begotten of him before all ages, God the Word through whom all things were made, both things in heaven and on earth; who descended, and became human, and suffered, and rose again, ascended into heaven, and will again come to judge the living and the dead. We believe also in the holy spirit, and in the resurrection of the flesh, and in the life of the coming age, and in the kingdom of the heavens, and in one catholic church of God, extending from one end of the earth to the other. . . . If we do not so believe and do not truly receive the Father, the son, and the holy spirit, as the whole catholic church and the holy scriptures teach (in which we believe in every respect), may God judge us both now, and in the coming judgment.1

According to Arius, he and his fellow Arians believed everything in common with the rest of the church, excepting only that they disagreed on the 'origin' of Jesus:

But what do we say and think and what have we previously taught and do we presently teach? . . . Before [Jesus] was begotten, or created, or defined, or established, he did not exist. For he was not unbegotten. But we are persecuted because we have said the son has a beginning but God has no beginning. We are persecuted because of that and for saying he came from non-being. But we said this since he is not a portion of God nor of anything in existence. That is why we are persecuted; you know the rest.2

But in response to the Arians, Athanasius argued that their perception of Jesus was that any human was ontologically equal to Jesus.

For granting what they say, that, whereas His qualifications were fore-known , He therefore received grace from the first, the name, and the glory of the name, from His very first beginning, still there will be no difference between Him and those who receive the name after their actions, so long as this is the ground on which He as others has the character of son.3

According to Athanasius, the Arian position meant that humans were qualitatively identical to Jesus, with the only substantial difference between that Jesus was created before humans were. Ergo, because Jesus is created, he cannot save what is also created:

Again, if the Son were a creature, man had remained mortal as before, not being joined to God; for a creature had not joined creatures to God, as seeking itself one to join it ; nor would a portion of the creation have been the creation's salvation, as needing salvation itself.4

This should be taken with a grain of salt, however; in the process of arguing against the Arians, it appears Athanasius exaggerated their view of Jesus, so he may well be making a straw man argument.5

1 Letter of Arius and Euzoïus to Emperor Constantine, c.327 AD. Emphases mine.

2 Letter of Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia, c.318 AD. Emphasis mine.

3 Athanasius, De Decretis, paragraph 6. Emphasis mine.

4 Athanasius, Discourse II Against the Arians, paragraph 69. The objection is, fundamentally: Only uncreated God can save, so if Jesus is not uncreated God, he cannot save. I believe this is a rather weak argument, philosophically and scripturally, but I digress.

5 e.g. Athanasius claims Arius' belief is that 'the Son is [not] by nature the Father's true Word . . . He is improperly called [the] Word [of God]', contrary to Arius' self-expressed belief (as in the first quote above) that 'the Lord Jesus Christ . . . [is] God the Word'.

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