Did Athanasius and the Nicene Fathers, in their condemnation of Arius, draw the conclusion that the personage which Arius is actually describing (and whom he, presumably, worshipped) is really the one generally called ‘The Devil’ and that, therefore, Arius could be categorised as a ‘Devil Worshipper’ ?
- The historical context
- Athanasius’ account of the excommunication of Arius
- Arius’ own description of what he calls ‘Christ’ and the ‘Word’
- The inference, from scripture, of whom Arius is actually describing
- The question of what, specifically, was ever documented of the one Arius worshipped.
- Charles Lee Irons (1), in the synopsis of The Biblical Basis of Eternal Generation, recounts the history of Arius’ denial of the eternal and divine existence of the Son of God :
Throughout the fourth century, the church fathers were engaged in a bitter debate with Arianism, and it was within the context of that debate that they clarified the church’s doctrine of the Trinity. Arianism was the view that the Son is a sub-deity who did not always exist but was created by God as the first and most glorious being in the universe, “the firstborn of all creation.” Arians affirmed the pre-existence of Christ — He existed as the Logos before His virgin birth. But they denied the eternal pre-existence of Christ. They said there was a time when He did not exist, and that before His generation, He did not exist. They said He was created out of the things that do not exist. They say that although He is the most glorious and first creature made by God, and can even be called “God” in some sense because of His exalted honor and divine glory, He falls on the creature side of the Creator-creature distinction.
- Athanasius of Alexandria records the event of the excommunication of Arius in his Discourses Against the Arians, in the First Discourse chapter 1 and paragraph 7 :
For this was why the Ecumenical Council, when Arius thus spoke, cast him from the Church, and anathematized him, as impatient of such irreligion. And ever since has Arius's error been reckoned for a heresy more than ordinary, being known as Christ's foe, and harbinger of Antichrist
- In the same First Discourse - chapter 2, paragraphs 5 and 6, Athanasius exposes what Arius describes of the person which he (that is, Arius) calls ‘Christ’, as follows :
… the Word of God Himself was made out of nothing … (sic)
… and, once (meaning ‘once upon a time’ - Edit) he was not … (sic)
… though (he) is called God, yet is he not ‘very God’ … (sic)
- If one examines Arius’ own description against scriptural references, it becomes clear that there is a person answering to that description.
But it is not Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the virgin Mary.
Since a person is being described, by Arius, who is ‘the firstborn of creation’ (that is to say, the first creation - Edit) and ‘the first created spirit’ and ‘who once was not’ and ‘who was made out of nothing’ - then that is the person who, in scripture, is called ‘the son of morning’ and ‘Lucifer’, Isaiah 14:12-15, who said ‘I will be like the most High’; and the person who is the first - created - spirit identified by scripture (in both Genesis and Job) that is to say the Serpent in Eden, and the person who, as one of the sons of God, requested of God that he be a ‘satan’ (an adversary) to Job; and is the same person who tempted Jesus in the wilderness being called a ‘Tempter’ and ‘Diabolos’ ; and is elsewhere called Antidikos (1 Peter 5:8) Anomos (2 Thessalonians 2:8) Poneros (1 John 2:13,14) and the Dragon (Revelation 12:3).
In short, this is the ‘Angel of Light’ described by the apostle Paul :
... For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. [I Corinthians 15:45 KJV]
- Then is it the case that either Athanasius or the Nicene fathers drew this conclusion in their opposition to Arius and their excommunication of him at the Ecumenical Council in 325 AD, either specifically at the time, in their condemnation of him, or thereafter in publications denouncing him ?
Did they ever assert that Arius was actually describing - and worshipping - the ‘Devil’ ?
(1) Charles Lee Irons, PhD, is an adjunct professor at California Graduate School of Theology.