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Arianism QUESTION from Bill McCarthy August 22, 2000 Arius taught,there was a time when he was not. Jesus was therefore a creation of god, the father, and therefore not equal to the Eternal One. Most bishops went along with this idas since this explanation of Jesus was understandable, whereas who could understand the Trinity? Did we ever adequately answer the Arian belief that Jesus was less than the equal to God the Father? Or did we have to wait for Divine intervention (i.e. the untimely, if fortutious, deaths of Constantius, and Julian) to return to the Nicene tradition? Also, what is to beget? My dictionary says to bring forth. Beget seems to imply occurring in time, whereas our concept of God begotting Jesus seems to have occurred outside of time. Do we just say we don't know and leave it as a mystery of God?
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on August 24, 2000 Dear Bill
The Catholic Church most certainly did answer the Arian heresy. For those who are unfamiliar with this heresy, it teaches that the second person of the Trinity at one point did not exist, and was created by the Father. The Second person of the Trinity is not of one nature, essence or substance with God. By extension, the Second Person of the Trinity, i.e. Jesus, is not truly God.
St. Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, was at the forefront in the struggle for the orthodox faith. Understand that after the Council of Nicea (325 A.D. ), full-fledged Arianism was on the decline. It was Semi-Arianism that was the real threat. Although Semi-Arian bishops accepted the Nicene creed, they devised many verbal subterfuges to affirm that Jesus was not co-equal with the Father, or that he shared the same dignity. They would say that Jesus and the Father were of like substance. Arianism, as an intellectual movement, was extinguished in 381 at the Council of Constantinople. It was done through the promotion of the faith by great saints such as St. Hilary of Poitiers.
Later on, the Western Church would be plagued by Arianism, but it would not be of the same kind. A Bishop named Ulfilas (311-388) preached Arianism to the Goths, and they adopted that particular creed; as did most other Barbarian tribes. They did not have a subtle understanding of the philosophical ideas behind Arianism: Arianism was associated with one's tribe, as Catholicism was associated with the Romans. For this reason, the conversion of Clovis to the Faith is of great significance. His conversion marks the beginning of the end of Arianism in the West. By the eighth century, it had vanished.
The proofs for Jesus' equality with God abound in the Bible and Tradition. Arius taught that the logos of John, Chapter 1, was not a divine person, but Reason. However, the passage does not justify it. It is written All things were made by Him; in the beginning was the logos; he is also full of greace and truth. This cannot be said of Reason. The claims Jesus makes of himself cannot be justified if he is not divine. For instance, he claimed Before Abraham was, I AM. He also claimed to forgive sins, he raised people from the dead, and promised to send the Paraclete. The examples are numerous.
The term beget is used in the sense to originate from. This does not necessarily imply a beginning in time. We understand that there are two processions in the Trinity: the Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit from the Son and the Father. The Father is the origin of the Son, like an ocean is the origin of a river. The fact that the Son has an origin does not mean that he necessarily has a beginning. We are merely describing what always has been
Thanks for your question.
Suzanne Fortin.
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