What Is Arianism?
According to legend, at the Council of Nicaea, Saint Nicholas (an early saint who is the inspiration for some of the characteristics of Santa Claus) slapped Arius, an Alexandrian priest, over his views on Christ. While the story is likely fictional, we are left asking, "Why would someone want to slap a first century priest from Alexandria, anyway?" The answer lies in the theological teaching of Arius.
Arius was an Alexandrian priest who was famous for his theological position on the existence of the Logos who became flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ. Arius was alarmed at a sermon that was preached by Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, when Arius perceived to be close to the Sabellian heresy. Arius led a mini rebellion against the bishop, who ultimately called a synod and vindicated the claim of Jesus to be equal with God, at least temporarily. Final vindication would be left to the Council of Nicaea. Arius believed that the Logos was the first of God's created beings. While every other being was created within time, Arius believed that the Logos was created before time began. It naturally follows from Arianism that Jesus was not truly divine. Arius was careful to frame his argument by claiming that "there was a then when the Logos was not."
The teaching of Arius is clearly unbiblical. I have previously written more than one post on the Trinity. I will let you look at a larger biblical case for the Trinity in those posts. Suffice to say for now that Arianism is unbiblical because it fails to explain the attribution of deity to Christ in the Gospels and epistles, God's own testimony about the identity of Christ, how someone who is not divine could redeem those of us who are made in the image of God, as well as several other biblical and theological issues. It also turns God into a liar, based on the Messianic predictions about the nature of the Messiah found in the Old Testament. In short, Arianism is unstable both biblically and theologically. With the biblical and theological evidence against it, you would have thought that Arianism would not have had a wide sway, right? Wrong. There was a time in the history of the Church when Arianism was a challenge to orthodox Christianity. In fact, if not for the perseverance of individuals like Athanasius, Arianism may have become the most powerful deception the world had ever seen. As it stands, it was rightly condemned at the Council of Nicaea. Surely that was the end of the matter, right? Wrong again.
Today, there is a group with over 8 million adherents that are Arian to their core. In addition to having some other unorthodox beliefs, they have revived the heresy of Arianism in our modern times. They are known as Jehovah's Witnesses. This group, despite their claims to the contrary, are not a Christian denomination. They are heretics. Their Jesus is unable to be the mediator between God and man, precisely because the Jesus that they worship is not divine. Their own website states that, "Unlike any other human, Jesus lived in heaven as a spirit person before he was born on earth. He was God's first creation, and he helped in the creation of all things." This is outright blasphemy! If Christ is not God, he cannot be the exact representation of God's being (Hebrews 1:3), have the fulness of God dwelling in him (Colossians 1:19), be the Mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 9:15), be in his very nature God (Philippians 2:6), or receive worship (Daniel 7:14; if one thinks that Jesus, the Son of Man, can receive worship yet not be God, it follows that to be consistent that this one must believe that God would accept blasphemy in his presence, which is unthinkable!)
Do not be deceived by modern Arians. Their views are not biblical, nor are they theologically or philosophically sound. Arianism is an ancient heresy that has deceived millions. Don't be its next victim.