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LECTURE 2 NOTE B.—P. 44.

THE DEFEAT OF ARIANISM.

The Christian doctrine has been accused,” says a writer in the Church Quarterly Review, “of being the result of the base intrigues of imperial politics, and to one who resolutely looks only at the details of much of the controversy, such a judgment might seem natural, while a close acquaintance with the Byzantine Court will not make its odour more pleasing. But to a wider view, such a judgment is impossible. The decision of the Council of Nicaea was the result of the free play of the theological ideas of the time; for Constantine—caring little about the result, though caring very much for unity—wisely left to the Council a free hand; but its decision may very well have been owing to the influence of a sovereign who threw his whole weight on the side which he saw was 391prevailing. Arius was condemned by an overwhelming majority, but the decision of the Council was not sufficient to stamp out opinions which had a natural hold on a large section of the Church. So the reaction was obliged to spread. Arianism survived for fifty years; with the help of imperial patronage it even obtained an unreal supremacy. But it had no basis of truth, and was naturally hostile to Christianity. As long as it was established, it continued to exist; orthodoxy was oppressed and persecuted, but orthodoxy increased. As soon as the balance of the temporal power swung round, orthodoxy became supreme, and Arianism vanished from the Empire as if it had never existed. It had more than a fair chance, but had no basis of truth. Orthodoxy had a terrible fight with odds against it, but in the end it was completely victorious.”—Church Quart., April–July 1888, pp. 462, 463.

Harnack’s judgment on Arianism is equally severe. “Only as cosmologists,” he says, “are the Arians monotheists; as theologians and in religion they are polytheists. Finally, deep contradictions lie in the background: a Son, who is no Son; a Logos, who is no Logos; a Monotheism, which does not exclude Polytheism; two or three Ousias, who are to be worshipped, while still only one is really distinguished from the creatures, an indefinable nature, which first becomes God when it becomes man, and which still is neither God nor man. . . . The opponents were right; this doctrine leads back into heathenism. . . . The orthodox doctrine has, on the contrary, its abiding worth in the upholding of the faith, that in Christ God Himself has redeemed men, and led them into His fellowship....This conviction of faith was saved by Athanasius against a doctrine which did not understand the inner nature of religion generally, which sought in religion only teaching, and ultimately found its satisfaction in an empty dialectic.”—Grundriss d. Dogmengeschichte, m. p. 141; cf. the Dogmengeschichte, pp. 217–224.

In his recent lectures on The Incarnation (p. 91), Mr. Gore directs attention to two striking passages from Thomas Carlyle and Thomas Hill Green to the same effect as the above. Mr. Froude writes of Carlyle: “He made one remark which is worth recording. In earlier years he had spoken contemptuously of the Athanasian Controversy,—of the Christian world torn to pieces over a diphthong....He now told me that he perceived Christianity itself to have been at stake. If the Arians had won, it would have dwindled away to a legend.”—Life in London, ii. p. 462. See Green’s view in Works, iii. p. 172.

On the later history of Arianism in England, and its transformation into Unitarianism, see the valuable Appendix by Dr. P. Fairbairn to Dorner’s History of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ, vol. v. pp. 337–466.

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