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From the death of Origen to the accession of Constantine was a period of tremendous growth for the church, as well as a period of great persecution under Diocletian, Galerius and Maximin from 303 to 312. In 313, a year after the accession of Constantine, Christianity, such as it was, became the state religion. In 313, Constantine promulgated the Edict of Milan forbidding persecution of monotheistic religions in the Roman Empire. On the surface this would appear to have been a great boon to the church. But as we shall see, although the edict allowed Christians to practice their faith openly, the politics of the Roman Empire slowly assimilated themselves into the church and thus was formulated a totalitarian religion known as Roman Catholicism. At this juncture, however, the church was vulnerable due to the continuing controversy over the Trinity and the nature of Christ. As was earlier stated, the orthodox tendency within the churches and communities was toward the absolute deification of Jesus. Yet, as we have seen, from earliest times Jesus was looked upon not as God but as 1) a man anointed by the Father/ Holy Spirit at his baptism who was looked upon as a prophet and Messiah and who, after his crucifixion, rose again according to the scriptures, thus proving his Messiahship; and 2) a preexistent divine being (either the highest or one of the highest) who took incarnation on earth, was crucified and rose again, and thus became Christ and Redeemer. The former concept of Jesus was held by the Nazorean Jewish Christians, the Ebionites, Cerinthians and others. The latter concept of Jesus was held by St. Paul and innumerable ChristianGnostic sects with much variation. The Apostle John was the first to identify Jesus with the Logos or Word who became flesh for the salvation of mankind. Certain sects and schools also differentiated between the Aeon Christ and the man Jesus. In this conception, the man Jesus was usually understood to be the instrument of the former. Prior to Origen the most common understanding of Christ in proto-orthodox circles was that he was the "image of God," and the first born of every creature, not the eternal God himself. The movement toward absolute deification of Jesus was undertaken by Church Fathers who, i n order to disprove the Christian-Gnostics, formulated new doctrines on the nature of Christ. We have seen that Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus, among others, began to identify Jesus as Son of God with the meaning that he was the same as God, i. e., he existed for eternity and was part of the Deity himself. However, it was well known that in the ancient mystery religions antedating Christianity, the term "Son of God" was used to designate the initiate who had received the highest mysteries and who had the final revelation— that revelation being the initiate's realization of his own Divine Nature. As we have seen, it was Origen who synthesized these conceptions of Christ into a viable system when he taught that since all souls preexisted and were created by God the Father as spiritual beings, Jesus was no different in essence from any other soul, except for the fact that he chose to cling to the Wisdom of God (The Word and Son) from the very beginning and thus, in effect, became one with that Eternal Wisdom. Origen, therefore, differentiates between the soul of Jesus and the second Person of the Trinity, the Son, yet he acknowledges that Jesus is the Wisdom and Word of God by virtue of his indissoluble union with the Word. We see then that the first and earliest complete Christological formula within the church, that of Origen, fell short of making Jesus the absolute eternal Deity. Later Church Fathers either could not or refused to make a distinction between the preexistent soul of Jesus and the Son-Wisdom-Word with which he united. The danger of this doctrine and primary reason why it could not remain as an official doctrine of the church was its obvious implication that any soul at any time could likewise choose to identify itself with the Son or Word and thus progress toward a divine state of union with the Deity. The power and authority of the clergy would thus be threatened— for only spiritual attainment would fit one for any sort of true authority. Union with the Deity was the primary goal of the mystery religions prevalent before and during the early centuries of Christianity as it was with the original ChristianGnostic sects. Therefore, these mystery religions and Gnostics had to be destroyed. From time to time, various theologians sought to promote in various ways the doctrine that Jesus was a man who merged with the Logos-Word, either in the beginning of creation or at some later time. We have seen that Origen was eventually judged a "heretic" for promoting such a concept. Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch (260-272) taught (as had others before him) that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were not three persons but three modes of activity within the Godhead. This became known as the Monarchian concept, and its purpose was to preserve the absolute unity of God as against the idea of emanation which (it was taught) tended to promote polytheism. Monarchianists refused to consider God under the aspect of "Persons" for fear that these persons would become "Gods" and there was supposed to be only one God. It is probable that the Monarchian doctrine originated in circles where Judaistic Christianity prevailed, which advocated a strict and absolute monotheism. With regard to Christ, Paul of Samosota taught that Jesus was a man who, at his baptism, became one with the Logos. The LogosWord-Son is the second mode or aspect of the Deity, an impersonal power which had also manifested itself in Moses and the prophets. Jesus, therefore, became more and more like God by virtue of his perfect and sinless life, and when baptized functioned as Saviour and Redeemer. The virgin Mary, taught Paul, did not give birth to the Logos but to a man whose destiny it was to merge with the Logos. Paul, therefore, promoted the doctrine of the indwelling Logos within Jesus, but denied that Jesus was the eternal God.< 1> Paul argued that Jesus, the man, was not consubstantial (of the same essenceie) as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and, he argued, to do this was to promote ditheism or the doctrine of two Gods.< 2> Paul's doctrine was similar to what we have earlier seen described as "Adoptionism." A synod was held at Antioch in 264 and formally condemned Paul's teaching as a heresy. Paul, however, was not easily defeated, and a third synod was convened in 268 during which Paul was excommunicated. Four years later he was driven from the church.< 3> It is ironic indeed that the most ancient Christian conception of Christ, which Paul revived, was now, two centuries later, considered a heresy. The Doctrine of Arius The teaching of Paul of Samosata was reinstituted, along with variations, in the first decades of the fourth century, first by Lucian of Antioch and then by his follower Arius, circa 320. Arius was a presbyter of the church at Alexandria and presided over an independent parish within the city. Alexander had become bishop of Alexandria in 312, and during the course of a sermon, Alexander proceeded to explain the so-called "mystery" of the Trinity. He affirmed that the Son was equal to the Father and of the same substance as the Father who begot him. Arius took offense at this teaching and proceeded to controvert Alexander. He began to promulgate the view, taught by Paul the Apostle, that the Son was the firstborn of the Father, was created by the Father and thus was a creature, although the first and highest creature. Arius logically deduced that if the Son was begotten by the Father, there must have been a time when the Son did not exist, that is, before his creation by the Father.< 4> The Son, therefore, had a beginning. Arius taught his doctrine in the churches and in general assemblies. Eventually, Arius declared his position openly to bishop Alexander while the latter tried to convince Arius of his error. When Arius would not be silenced, Alexander wrote long letters to several bishops in various cities. One of these letters, written to Bishop Alexander in Constantinople, is noteworthy for its insights into what was really the underlying doctrine of Arius. Alexander first accuses Arius and the Arians of reviling what he terms "the religious doctrines of the apostles," and of conspiring against Christ. It becomes obvious from Alexander's letter, as we shall see, that Arius and his school were attempting, in vain, to preserve the humanity of Christ over against his divinity and deification. Alexander writes: ... they deny his divinity, and declare him to be on a level with other men. They collect all those passages which allude to the incarnation of our Saviour, and to his having humbled himself for our salvation, and bring them forward as corroborative of their own impious assertion; while they evade all those which declare his divinity, and the glory he possesses with the Father.< 5> Alexander, at length, goes on to assert what Arias taught: ...( the son) must have had a beginning; and that when he was created he was made like all other men that have ever been born. God, they say, created all things, and they include the Son of God in the number of creatures, both rational and irrational.... They... affirm that he (the Son) is by nature liable to change.... 'We are also able, ' say these evil-minded individuals to become like him, the sons of God'.... They likewise assert that he was not elevated (as Son) because he had by nature any qualifications superior to those of the other sons of God; for God, say they, has not any son by nature.... They consider that he was elected because, though mutable by nature, he was vigilant and zealous in avoiding evil. They add that if Paul and Peter had made similar efforts, their filiation [sonship] would in no respects have differed from his.< 6> Arius and his followers had committed the unforgivable sin of declaring that they were sons of God and that they bore in themselves the image of the Son, and that the Son himself was no different, in essence, than themselves. This was essentially the doctrine of Origen, as we have seen, and of St. Paul, who taught that Christ was the firstborn of all creature, who dwelt in every creature as their "hope of glory." The Arians also taught, as did Origen just 50 years earlier, that the Son was chosen not by superiority of nature but by virtue of his self-effort. And we recall the words of St. John in his epistle: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God...." (1 John 3: 2). This, then, was the crux of Arius' doctrine and the reason why his teaching could not prevail in the Christian world; the hatred of Arius was not due to the supposed inaccuracy of his metaphysical conceptions on the Trinity but for what his doctrine implied: all men could become the sons of God, as Jesus had, and all could share his sonship with the Father. In his letter, Bishop Alexander either refuses to acknowledge or avoids the remainder of Arius' teaching on the Logos. According to Alexander, Arius blasphemed against the Trinity by degrading the Son to creature status. Arius, however, did not teach the identity of the Son with the Logos or Word. Alexander failed to distinguish between the Son and Word in delineating Arius' doctrine. Unfortunately, we possess only fragments of Arius' work "The Banquet," in which he described his doctrine both in prose and poetry. Athanasius, the archenemy of Arius and the Arians, later quoted Arius' teaching from the above work as follows: When God wished to create us, He first created a being which He called the Logos, Sophia, and the Son, who should create us as an instrument. There are two Sophias: one is in God (i. e., endiathetos), by which even the Son was made. It is only by sharing the nature of this inner Sophia of God that the Son was also called Wisdom. So, also, besides the Son, there is another Logos— he who is God; as the Son participates in the Logos, He also is by grace called Logos and Son. God is ineffable, and nothing (therefore not even the Son) is equal to or like Him, or of the same glory.< 7> For centuries, Arius has been accused of teaching that the Second Person of the Trinity was a created being, when in reality, he taught that the Logos-Word was, in fact, the Second Person by whom the Son was made and in whom the Son participates. The Son, therefore, in Arius' view, was the supreme Archetype of all created beings who was adopted by God. Arius perhaps occasionally interchanged the names of Logos, Son and Wisdom, thus adding to the confusion. Unbegotten God - The Father | v Wisdom (Sophia) - called Wisdom in God | v Logos - also called God | v Son - also called Wisdom (first creation) | v All other beings also called "sons" Figure 3. The Arian Schema of Being We may, however, diagram Arius' teaching as in Figure 3. The doctrine, as diagrammed, appears to be similar to the ancient Christian-Gnostic doctrine of emanations. Arius, however, would not use the term "emanations" as this smacked too much of the heretical doctrines of the Christian-Gnostics. The term "creation" was used by the school of AZ LONG AZ THEY CAN THINK, WE'LL HAVE OUR PROBLEMS