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’ ?

  1. The historical context
  2. Athanasius’ account of the excommunication of Arius
  3. Arius’ own description of what he calls ‘Christ’ and the ‘Word’
  4. The inference, from scripture, of whom Arius is actually describing
  5. The question of what, specifically, was ever documented of the one Arius worshipped.


  1. 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.

  1. 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

  1. 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)

  1. 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]

  1. 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.

  • What sources would you consider authoritative? Any church father who supported the Politician Constantine’s creed? Also do you subscribe to the idea that Lucifer is another name for Satan?
    – Kris
    Jan 29, 2020 at 17:08
  • The question is about Athanasius and the Nicene fathers, that is to say, those who adhered to the Nicene Creed and who excommunicated and anathematized Arius.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 29, 2020 at 17:44
  • 2
    @Kris Although Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicea (325), the creed that emerged was not his creed. It was bishops like Alexander and deacons like Athanasius who refuted the heresy of Arius, who said that Jesus was a created being, the first “thing” created. The Nicene Creed was later confirmed at the Council of Constantinople in 381, a final triumph that Athanasius did not live to see (he died in 373). Constantine was not responsible for the creedal statement that expressed the consensus.
    – Lesley
    Jan 31, 2020 at 11:06
  • @Lesley I’ve read that according to Eusebius the word homoousios was inserted into Nicene creed at the insistence of Constantine. He played more than the role host for this gathering. His own Greek philosophy influenced His choice between two wrongs. Of the two opposing sides the one that denied Jesus was a created being aligned best with Constantine’s view which was not Christian at all either.
    – Kris
    Jan 31, 2020 at 13:55
  • 2
    @Kris I have no intention of responding to any of your views about Constantine. That would be to go off-topic. But please don't refer to "Constantine's creed" as if that is what it was. Anti-trinitarians should not need to stoop to such tricks.
    – Lesley
    Jan 31, 2020 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


Since the Council of Nicaea excommunicated Arius & Co., they were 'delivering them to Satan' as Paul describes exclusion from the Church - I Timothy 1:20 and 1 Corinthians 5:5. One can draw the conclusion that they belong to Satan and they are delivered up to him out of the fold of the flock.

To bolster this, consider the words of Athanasius below, wherein he calls Arius & Co. ‘Christ opposers’, ‘followers of the devil’, ‘from the devil’ and that they have ‘their father the devil’. Even if the exact phrase, ‘they worship the devil’ is not to be found, those four anathemas add up to Arius & Co. being accused of adoring and following their spiritual father the devil instead of the only-begotten Son of the Father, Jesus Christ.

Chap XXV 17. …for it follows either that we too are proper to the Father's Essence, or He foreign to it, as we are foreign.' Thus they idly babble; but in this their perverseness I see nothing but unreasoning audacity and recklessness from the devil [2923] , since it is saying after his pattern, We will ascend to heaven, we will be like the Most High.' For what is given to man by grace, this they would make equal to the Godhead of the Giver. Thus hearing that men are called sons, they thought themselves equal to the True Son by nature such [2924] . And now again hearing from the Saviour, that they may be one as We are [2925] ,' they deceive themselves, and are arrogant enough to think that they may be such as the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son; not considering the fall of their father the devil [2926] ,' which happened upon such an imagination.

[2923] diaboliken vid. S:8, n. 10., cf. Isa. xiv. 14.

[2926] ii. 73, n. 7.

Chapter XXX 8. ….since those who are devoted to gods falsely so called, revolt from the True God, therefore God, being good and careful for mankind, recalling the wanderers, says, I am Only God,' and I Am,' and Besides Me there is no God,' and the like; that He may condemn things which are not, and may convert all men to Himself. …that He may make men renounce falsely called gods, and that they may recognise Him the true God instead. Indeed when God said this, He said it through His own Word… but so hath He spoken, though they rave, these followers of the devil [2854] … but when men made insurrection against the truth and named for themselves gods such as they would [2856] , then it was that need arose of such words, for the denial of gods that were not. Nay I would add, that they were said even in anticipation of the folly of these Christ-opposers [2857] , that they might know, that whatsoever god they devise external to the Father's Essence, he is not True God, nor Image and Son of the Only and First.

[2854] diabolikoi. vid. supr. p. 187, and de Decr. 5, note 2. vid. also Orat. ii. 38, a. 73, a. 74 init. Ep. AEg. 4 and 6. In the passage before us there seems an allusion to false accusation or lying, which is the proper meaning of the word; diaballon occurs shortly before. And so in Apol. ad Const. when he calls Magnentius diabolos, it is as being a traitor, 7. and soon after he says that his accuser was ton diabolou propon analabon, where the word has no article, and diabeblemai and dieblethen have preceded. vid. also Hist. Ar. 52 fin. And so in Sent. D. his speaking of the Arians' father the devil,' 3, c. is explained 4, b. by tous pateras diaballonton and tes eis ton episkopon diaboles.

[2857] Who worship one whom they themselves call a creature, vid. supr. Or. i. 8, n. 8, ii. 14, n. 7, 21, n. 2, and below, S:16 notes.


  • Good dig here Anne.
    – Kris
    Jan 31, 2020 at 13:27
  • . . . . and an accepted answer.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 31, 2020 at 14:39
  • 2
    @Kris Yes, it was a real dig into deep and numerous papers of Athanasius. Took some doing, to sift out a few little sparkling quotes. Worth it, though!
    – Anne
    Jan 31, 2020 at 17:58

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