Athanasius Contra Mundum

Monday, February 1, AD 2010

Athanasius Contra Mundum

Saint Athanasius, a Doctor of the Church, and the foremost defender of the divinity of Christ, is one of the key figures in the history of the Faith.  His era, the Fourth Century, was a time period of turbulent change, not unlike our own in that respect.  With the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christ, the Church was suddenly transformed from a proscribed cult into the religion of the Empire.  Instead of being executed for their faith in Christ, bishops found themselves important players in what was rapidly becoming a Christian Empire.  To many Christians, it seemed as if they had reached a golden period in human history when the Church could rapidly reach its goal of bringing all men to Christ.  History, however, never ceases to twist and turn as it charts the affairs of Man.

One of the more dangerous twists of History in the Fourth Century for the Church, was the meteoric rise of the Arian heresy.  A priest of Alexandria, Egypt, Arius propounded the doctrine that the Son, since he was begotten of the Father, was a creation of God, and not God.  He was the greatest of God’s creations, and next to God, but he was not God.  Of course, Arius thus destroyed the doctrine of the Trinity, and reduced Jesus from being God to being a creature serving God.  This doctrine, if it had prevailed, would have transformed Christianity into a Unitarian faith and inevitably downplayed the centrality of Christ.  The doctrine of Arius began to spread, until it was necessary for it to be addressed at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the first of the ecumenical councils.  Called specifically to address Arianism, the Council was unequivocal in its condemnation of Arianism as indicated by the Nicene Creed written at the Council:

We Believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, very God from very God, begotten, not made, Consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things in earth; who for us men and for our salvation came down and was incarnate, was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven, and is coming to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit, and those who say “There was when he was not” and “Before his generation he was not” and “He came to be from nothing” or those who pretend that the Son of God is “Of other hypostasis or substance; or “created” or alterable” or “mutable”; the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.

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13 Responses to Athanasius Contra Mundum

  • The Eastern half of the Roman Empire seems to receive the brunt of everything bad.

    Arianism, Chalcedonian schism, the doctrine of ceasaro-papalism, and Islam.

    I really feel for those guys, our Orthodox brothers and sisters.

  • Arianism is still alive and well in our time, in the form of the Adventist religions – particularly the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  • And some Pentecostals.

    They don’t believe the Holy Spirit is not part of the triune God.

  • I think you’ve got a double negative there, Tito. 🙂

  • Don,

    I blame my public school education.

    😉

  • I blame the Reformation. 🙂

  • I tend to blame the French Revolution myself.

    Never trust a freemason frog.

    🙂

  • A lot of Catholic don’t believe in the divinity of Christ either.

  • “A lot of Catholics don’t believe in the divinity of Christ either.”

    Then they aren’t Catholics Tony.

  • Everyone is Catholic – some of us actually know it.

    I don’t want to be excessively critical and my Latin is very, very weak; however, doesn’t the Creed actually begin with I believe, instead of We believe?

    I think the distinction is a recognition of our free will. I freely choose to believe what the Church believes, but I cannot speak for what you believe. Hence when we are in Mass with divinity-denying Catholics (referenced above) we can still state what we believe as individual members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Or, perhaps, I don’t really know what I am talking about.

  • The Nicene Creed was written in Greek AK. I believe the English translation is an accurate rendering of the Greek, although I confess my Greek is weak!

  • It is all Greek to me 🙂

    The revised translation of the Novus Ordo begins the Creed with, “I believe” as opposed to “We believe”. I am fairly confident that is to emphasize that we are individual parts of the Mystical Body, each with a free will and that each of us on our own accord chooses to believe what the Church (We) believes.

    Just another reason why the Mass should be in a dead, uncorrupted, static language. Well, at least the propers should be.

    Kyrie Eleision (that’s all the Greek I know 😉

  • I think the official Latin uses “Credo” which I believe (ha ha) translates to “I believe” rather than “we believe.”