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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Please provide Biblical and historical references as appropriate.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
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 3:45
  • I assumed you, given the quote in your question. "... but it assumes a Trinitarian view." :)
    – Ryan
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 2:22
  • None of the answers posted to this question so far, including the accepted and bountied one, really focuses on answering the question asked. They are all more interested in litigating the differences between Arian and Nicene Christology than they are in answering the actual question of what, according to Arian theology, is Christ's role in the work of human salvation. This question still has no good answers. Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 12:28

5 Answers 5

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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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Given the very little that we have from Arius, he wrote little about soteriology (how we are saved). For that reason, some assume that Arius was not interested in soteriology. However, RPC Hanson, in his book, “The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God - The Arian Controversy 318-381, pages 25-27, concludes that the Arians held their ideas about Christ because of their convictions about His redemptive acts. He proposes that the Arians argued as follows:

God had to suffer for our salvation.

But God the Father cannot suffer. He is not mutable. He cannot interact directly with creation. (These ideas are based on Greek philosophy but have become generally accepted in the church during the two centuries before Arius.) See – The Apologists.

God the Son, therefore, had to be the God who could suffer. But, for that purpose, He had to have a reduced divinity.

In becoming incarnate the Son had taken to himself, not a complete human individual, but what they called "a body without a soul." This meant … the Word directly animated and directed the body, dwelling in it.” (p25)

Hanson concluded as follows:

“Arius' doctrine of the Incarnation was designed to protect God the Father from being exposed to human experiences” (p25).

The Arians “regarded the Son as an instrument expressly designed to do the suffering that was necessary in order to carry out God's plan for saving men” (p25).

If this is true, soteriology is the basis of Arianism. However, the consequence of Arius’ soteriology was a deviation from the standard explanation of Christ at that time, which was that the Son is the Logos of Greek philosophy. That Logos had a two-stage existence. It has always existed as part of God but, when God decided to create, the Logos became a separate hypostasis (Person or reality). Hanson refers to this as "the conventional Trinitarian doctrine with which Christianity entered the fourth century" (See - Hanson's lecture.)

So, for example:

In the standard Logos Theology, the Logos always existed but Arius taught that the Son has a beginning and, therefore, did not always exist.

In the standard Logos Theology, the Logos came out of the substance of God but Arius taught that God made the Son out of non-existence.

Arius’ deviations from the standard Logos Theology caused the Arian Controversy. The Nicene side could not fault Arius’ soteriology but could not accept the implication with respect to the nature of Christ.

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  • +1 "Arius’ deviations from the standard Logos Theology" I'm skeptical of this. Arius claimed to simply be passing on the views he had inherited. My guess is it's the opposite - Athanasius' views were the deviations historically. Of course, those later became the standard view. My 2 c. Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 16:52
  • @OneGodtheFather The Nicene Creed of 325 is completely consistent with the Logos Theology. This includes (1) begotten … from the substance of the Father, (2) of one substance with the Father, (3) through Whom all things came into being, and, in the anathemas, (4) There never was when He was not, and (5) He did not come into existence out of nothing. I am working on an article to show that (a) the Logos Theology was based on Greek philosophy but was the orthodoxy when the Controversy began, (b) Arius deviated from that orthodoxy, and (c) the Nicene Creed continued Logos Theology.
    – Andries
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:27
  • "the Logos Theology was based on Greek philosophy and was the orthodoxy when the Controversy began" Agree about the first part, but I'm skeptical about the second in a broad sense (i.e., what things were when Arius first became a Christian - obviously views amongst the clever-sillies of Christendom were changing). Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:30
  • @OneGodtheFather Hanson wrote, "The theological structure provided by the Apologists lasted as the main, widely-accepted, one might almost say traditional framework for a Christian doctrine of God well into the fourth century." "They identified the pre-existent Christ, thought of as manifesting himself on critical occasions throughout the history of the Jewish people, with the nous or Second Hypostasis of contemporary Middle Platonist philosophy." See Hanson
    – Andries
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 4:18
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Arius' Christology follows that of Ss. Lucian of Antioch and Dionysius of Alexandria. During the Nicene council Arians quoted both of them to sustain the hypostatic difference between the Father and the Son. This is why in the original Nicene creed, the last part condemned anyone who confess the Son is of different hypostasis than the Father. Because of this Nicene was suspected for Modalism by Arian sympathizers. Only later in 362 St. Athanasius concede to distinguish ousia from hypostasis in order to gain more support from semi-Arians who were sympathetic for Church unity to prevent wars with Persian Empire by accepting Nicene as the unity of faith and the Roman Empire.

For Arius, Christ is the one mediator between God and men, because He is one nature from both natures. He is divine because before becoming the Son at creation he exists anhypostatically as the Logos with God, this then revived by Photinus of Sirmium which then condemned for both Sabellianism and Adoptionism at Constantinople in 381. The Logos became the Son hypostatically at creation by the will of God becoming the creator of this world which makes the Son divine but hypostatically lesser than the Father because He is uncaused while the Son is begotten from Him. An uncaused God can't become a caused one but a caused divine person can become a human because His personhood is caused. By become incarnate the Son is capable to die and be forsaken by His Father on the Cross.

Both Ss. Lucian and Dionysius used 1 Timothy 2:5 to show that the one mediator is a perfect man assumed by the Logos. Arians before, during, and after Nicaea used their writings to oppose the usage of Samosatan's homoousian language condemned earlier at Second Council of Antioch in 268. To this day Church of the East preserved Antiochene Christology that the Logos dwelt in His tabernacle and His tabernacle is that one mediator, notice that St. Paul didn't say God-man but referred to a man as the mediator between God and men. Samosata's and Arius' errors were not a denial of divinity of Christ but how the Logos and His tabernacle related in our salvation.

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  • Do you have any Biblical references, like the question asks for? And please don't say that protestants are Arian. That's off-topic for this question and unhelpful regardless. I will be removing it from your answer.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 9:29
  • I never said Protestantism is Arian. Both anti Nicene and Nicene party used Scripture. The question is which one is historically reliable with the faith handed down by the Apostles. This is why Nicene later won. My post on 'What are the soteriological implications of Arianism?' address this point that Lutheran and Calvinian soteriology is inherently Arian because it argues for an actual chasm between the hypostases of the Father and the Son. I was a former Calvinist and I left Reformed because it introduces an actual division between Godhead when the Fathers allegedly damned His Son in Hell. Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 18:31
  • I explained the role of Christ according to Arian. The soteriological implication of Arianism can be seen in Lutheran and Calvinian soteriology (link above). Arians teach that the Son was forsaken by the Father on the cross. This view was refuted by St. Athanasius because it introduces an actual chasm in the Godhead. Both Luther and Calvin teach that on the Cross Christ became an actual sinner substituting our sins on His flesh. This explains why Lutheran and Calvinian soteriology is inherently Arian. Even though Protestantism is not Arian. Don't remove my answer simply because you disagree. Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 18:48
  • curiousdannii, both Ss Lucian and Dionysius used 1 Timothy 2:5 to show that the one mediator is a perfect man assumed by the Logos. Arians before, during, and after Nicaea used their writings to oppose the usage of Samosatan's homoousian language condemned earlier at Second Council of Antioch in 268. To this day Church of the East preserved Antiochene Christology that the Logos dwelt in His tabernacle and His tabernacle is that one mediator. Samosata's and Arius' errors were not a denial of divinity of Christ but how the Logos and His tabernacle related in our salvation. Thank you for asking. Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 19:11
  • If you want to argue that Lutherans and Calvinists are Arian, then make a new question. It's off topic here.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 21:44
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The definition of "divinity" is important here, since in my belief this was expressed in the New Testament as the Holy Spirit indwelling. This trickles down to believers as well, "that they may be one as we are one" (John 17:22-23 KJV).

Jesus was for Arians THEOS as expressed plainly by Arius in his letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia1,

...But we say and believe, and have taught, and do teach, that the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any way part of the unbegotten; and that He does not derive His subsistence from any matter; but that by His own will and counsel He has subsisted before time, and before ages, as perfect God, only begotten and unchangeable...

God…

Only begotten…

The thing is, for early ECF's "a god" was the same as "elohim" in the Hebrew and "theos" without a definite article in the Koine. So the capitalization above is not quite accurate in the English.

Jesus being "a god" was not for the Arian "THE god," God Almighty. And Arius avoided any consideration of Jesus having any substance or essence (homoousian) with the Father, as quoted above:

...the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any way part of the unbegotten; and that He does not derive His subsistence from any matter...

Again, the homoousia which the Nicene Council concluded, was anathema to Arius, but Arius did not consider the unity described in John 10:30 KJV ("I and the Father are one") to be a unity including the Holy Spirit either.

And the fact is, this Holy Spirit was considered "of God" and possibly of God's inherent nature in part or in whole.

The Nicene Creed replaced this true unity with the "homoousian unity." Arius, in opposition, did not consider this unity of the Holy Spirit either. IMHO, both parties missed the boat here.


Editor's Notes:

1 I found many translations of this letter on the Internet, none of which exactly matched the verbiage used by the OP. I selected the closest match. This translation comes from Theodoret, Historia Ecclesiastica, 1.4.1-4.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. For more on what this site is about, see: How we are different than other sites. In particular, this is a Q&A site rather than a discussion site. Answers must address the specific question asked, from the perspective asked for--which in this case is the role of Christ in salvation, and *from an Arian perspective. Since your answer doesn't answer that specific question, it is likely to get deleted. Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 19:41
  • I got it from "The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God" R.C. Hanson, p. 6. Sorry for not posting my reference. Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 5:23
  • Even after the edits, this still does not answer the question asked, which is the role of Christ in salvation according to Arian theology. Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 12:25
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An answer more directly correlate to the OP, Jesus is the WAY unto Almighty God, not being God Almighty Himself.

"No man comes unto the Father except by me."

Arius conceived of Jesus as "originate theos" or in terms of JEWISH View (my primal hermeneutic) second-place elohim at the Right Hand of God.

This is proven by the fact that God MADE Jesus just under the angels and exalted him over them at his glorification. MADE is the key word in Acts, poieo.

Acts 2

36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Heb 2

7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:

8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Directly OPPOSING the Athanasian Creed, "begotten not made." Monogenes huios WAS the made and created Son.

And it is EASILY seen what happened from the Nicene Creed onward. The Equal-to-God the Father proponents had to DO AWAY with this concept that the Father MADE Jesus anything, much less the anointed and sent Son at his birth. From Origen's "eternally begotten" terminology, to his acolyte EUSEBIUS' rejection of it, but his own consideration that God MADE Jesus the Superior Creature, to not being a creature or creation at all. Jewish View holds to ALL THINGS as being made and created by YHWH. And Athansians (we call now) had to SUBVERT this concept in order to make Jesus equal God to God. And THEN declare two who are God are not in turn two Gods.

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