The Arian Controversy: Some Categories Reconsidered

The Arian Controversy: Some Categories Reconsidered

Lienhard, Joseph T. (Marquette University)

Theological Studies, 48, (1987)


ELEMENTARY TEXTBOOKS often paint a clear and dramatic picture of the “Arian” controversy, more or less as follows. Shortly before 318, in Alexandria, Arius began to preach that the Son of God is a creature. In 318 a synod convoked by the bishop, Alexander of Alexandria, condemned Arius’ teaching. Arius then withdrew to Asia Minor, where he won many converts to his doctrines, especially from among the Sylloukianistai, his fellow pupils of the martyr Lucian of Antioch. In 325 the Council of Nicaea decisively rejected Arianism and proclaimed the orthodox doctrine in its creed and particularly in the renowned word komoousion. But the majority of Eastern bishops continued to adhere to the Arian heresy in subtler and subtler forms; and Arianizing emperors, especially Constantius, conspired with these bishops to force Arius’ heresy on the whole Church. At first, resistance to Arianism came almost singlehandedly from Athanasius of Alexandria, who, despite persecution and exile, indefatigably defended Nicene orthodoxy. The year 360 marked the nadir: “The whole world groaned and marveled that it was Arian,” wrote Jerome. Constantius’ death in 361 was a turning point. The three Cappadocian Fathers received the baton of orthodoxy from Athanasius and continued the defense of the Nicene doctrine. The ascendancy of Arianism was definitively ended by the Council of Constantinople in 381, and orthodoxy triumphed.

Click here to read this article from

Sponsored Content