“Before He was Begotten, He Was Not…”

The exact date, like many details of Arius’ life, is unknown. Some believe he was born in what is now Libya in North Africa. He studied theology in a Christian catechetical school under a well noted theologian, Lucian of Antioch.  He arrived in Alexandria in 311 A.D. where he was ordained as a presbyter. He eventually became well loved by and very influential amongst the masses around Alexandria.

Arius was one of the causes of the Arian controversy within Church history. The controversy began after a clash occurred between the presbyter and Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria. Arius believed the Word of God (Jesus) was not coeternal with God the Father. The presbyter claimed that the Word was not God but the highest created creature.

Both parties agreed on the preexistence of the Son before the Incarnation. However, they parted ways on the nature of the Son’s preexistence. Arius charged Alexander with denying the idea of Christian monotheism. In return, Alexander condemned Arius for denying the deity of Christ. In Alexander’s mind, if Jesus was not God, Christians should not be worshipping him. The controversy became public when Alexander condemned Arius’ teachings and removed him from his post in Alexandria. Arius did not recant any of his positions but went on to begin a letter writing campaign against the bishop. The bishop responded the same. The Arian controversy began to create a schismatic spirit within the Eastern side of the Church and eventually led Constantine to get involved. What resulted from this controversy was the council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed.

Arius did not intend to create heresy. He set out to make a rational, biblical polemic about the deity of Christ and the Trinity. He worked through the lens of the best Greek philosophy concerning the nature of the Logos. This issue was actually a problem of hermeneutics.

Arius’ basic affirmations were as follows:

  • The Son is a creature, a product of God’s will.
  • God ensured the Son’s closeness of Himself by giving all the glory he was able to receive and by bestowing upon him some participation in the divine intellect.
  • The Son’s status, like his existence, depends upon God’s will.
  • The Son is not equal to God or of the same substance.

Arius’ trinity came to be “Three divine beings, but only One who is truly God.” Arius himself said:

We acknowledge One God, alone unbegotten, alone everlasting, alone unbegun, alone true, alone having immortality, alone wise, alone good, alone sovereign… God is before all things as the Being Monad and Beginning of all.’ (Quoted from Arius’ defence of his position to his bishop, Alexander)…And God, being the cause of all things, is Unbegun and altogether Sole, but the Son being begotten apart from time by the Father, and being created and founded before ages, was not before His generation, but being begotten apart from time before all things, alone was made to subsist by the Father. For He is not eternal or co-eternal or co-unoriginate with the Father, nor has He His being together with the Father, as some speak of relations, introducing two ingenerate beginnings, but God is before all things as being Monad and Beginning of all. Wherefore also He is before the Son; as we have learned also from thy preaching in the midst of the Church. (Letter of Arius (excerpt quoted by Athanasius, De Synodis, Part II, Chapter 16))

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses present-day Arians? You decide…

  • “Jesus, the Christ, a created individual, is the second greatest personage of the Universe. Jehovah God and Jesus together constitute the superior authorities” (Make Sure of All Things, p. 207).
  • . . .”He was a god, but not the Almighty God, who is Jehovah” (Let God Be True, p. 33).
  • “If Jesus were God, then during Jesus’ death God was dead in the grave” (Let God Be True, 1946, p. 91).
  • “…Jesus was ‘the son of God.’ Not God himself!” (“The Word” Who Is He?, p. 20).
  • “The truth of the matter is that the word is Christ Jesus, who did have a beginning” (Let God Be True, p. 88).
  • “…sincere persons who want to know the true God and serve him find it a bit difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish-looking, three-headed God” (Let God Be True, 1946)
  • “…So there was nothing improper about Thomas’ referring to Jesus in that way. Thomas was saying that Jesus was a god to him, a divine, powerful one. But he was not saying that Jesus was Jehovah, which is why Thomas said, `my’ God and not `the’ God.” (Watchtower, 6/1/88 p. 17-19)
  • In other words, he was the first and direct creation of Jehovah” (The Kingdom is at Hand, p. 46, 47, 49.) 

Quotes from What Does the Bible Say About God and Jesus?

  • “Why would all the God-inspired Bible writers speak of God as one person if he were actually three persons? What purpose would that serve, except to mislead people? Surely, if God were composed of three persons, he would have had his Bible writers make it abundantly clear so that there could be no doubt about it.”
  • “Having been created by God, Jesus is in a secondary position in time, power, and knowledge.”
  • “The temptation of Jesus would make sense only if he was, not God, but a separate individual who had his own free will, one who could have been disloyal had he chosen to be, such as an angel or a human.”
  • “It was only a perfect human, Adam, who sinned in Eden, not God. So the ransom, to be truly in line with God’s justice, had to be strictly an equivalent—a perfect human, “the last Adam.” Thus, when God sent Jesus to earth as the ransom, he made Jesus to be what would satisfy justice, not an incarnation, not a god-man, but a perfect man…”
  • “Hence, when the Bible speaks of God as the “Father” of Jesus, it means what it says—that they are two separate individuals. God is the senior. Jesus is the junior—in time, position, power, and knowledge.”
  • “Hence, the phrase “Son of God” refers to Jesus as a separate created being, not as part of a Trinity.
  • “The Bible is clear and consistent about the relationship of God to Jesus. Jehovah God alone is Almighty. He created the prehuman Jesus directly. Thus, Jesus had a beginning and could never be coequal with God in power or eternity.”
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