Athanasius And The Arian Controversy -- By: C. F. Schaeffer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 021:81 (Jan 1864)
Article: Athanasius And The Arian Controversy
Author: C. F. Schaeffer


Athanasius And The Arian Controversy1

Rev. C. F. Schaeffer

§ I. Preliminary Observations

No doctrine that combines both philosophical and also religious elements, has ever engendered such violent contests in Christendom as those which succeeded the introduction of Arianism. They convulsed alike the Oriental and the Western church; they were maintained during a period of more than half a century; and, while they continued, political influences were as actively exercised as those which proceeded from the church. The struggle necessarily assumed, during its progress, such vast proportions. For Arianism was not simply a heresy which a single individual — an energetic agitator — endeavored to promulgate, but is rather to be viewed as a new conflict between the spirit of the world and the spirit of revelation. That conflict had originally possessed an external character during the three

centuries which closed with the public recognition of the social rights of the church; it was now renewed in the very bosom of the church, and imperilled her doctrinal life. It was in reality the whole spirit or character of the oriental people, who had been only partially converted to Christianity, that rose up in opposition to the fundamental truths of the Christian revelation, and which merely assumed the form of Arianism. The party which adhered to the views of Arius long after his death, had not been created by him; he had only been the first who gave a distinctly defined form and body to prevailing hostile sentiments respecting the doctrine and the authority of the church.

The intellectual and spiritual atmosphere of the East contained at that time two opposite elements: the one was from above — from the Spirit of God; the other was from below — from the spirit of the natural man; the former was the Christian revelation; the latter, pagan philosophy. The two had, during three centuries, been compared by many thoughtful minds, and their respective value had been determined with different degrees of success. At the present era, when other theories had been either modified or discarded, two opposite systems divided the interest and zeal of men between them. The one held that philosophy constituted the substance, and that the Christian revelation was simply an accident — a non-essential quality; the other, which was fully developed and sustained by clear and satisfactory reasons, held that the truths of revelation constituted the substance, and that philosophy was a mere accident, by no means essentially necessary to the existence of the substance. The former was embodied in Arianism; the latter, in the Athanasian creed. That these were the relati...

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