Modern-day Arians: Who Are They?
One of the greatest of the heretics in all of Church history was Arius of Alexandria. He lived from about AD 280 until 336 and had a profound influence upon the Church.
Arius was a presbyter (member of the governing body) of the Alexandrian Church and he taught that doctrine must be completely reasonable to the human mind or it was not biblical.
When human reason becomes the criterion for Biblical doctrine, limitations are placed upon God who is infinite and His Word via man's finite mind.
Therefore, if a certain doctrine is found to be unreasonable in Man's understanding, it would follow that it would also be unscriptural.
The doctrine of Christ had already been responsible for considerable agitation of the Church. Before Arius came on the scene, heresy had already played a major role in forcing the Church to express definite views of doctrine.
Beginning toward the end of the first century and especially into the second and third centuries, Gnosticism pressured the Church fathers into defining and defending some of the major doctrines of Christianity; particularly concerning Christology (the person, nature, and work of Christ).
The teachings of Arius in the fourth century had the same results. In fact, the greatest theological works and statements of faith produced in the early church were a direct result of answering heretics.
So what was it in Arius' doctrine of Christ that made it heresy?
Arius said: "We must either suppose two divine original essences, without beginning and independent of each other, we must substitute a dyarchy for a monarchy, or we must not shrink from asserting that the logos had a beginning of his existence - that there was when he was not (Albert Newman, A Manual of Church History, p. 326).
This action resulted in a schism of the Alexandrian Church which spread quickly throughout the rest of the Church. It eventually led to the Nicene Council where Athanasius, one of the greatest thinkers in Church history, championed Orthodoxy and the Nicene Creed was drafted.
This creed says in part, "We believe ...in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only begotten, that is from the substance of the Father... begotten not made, of one substance with the Father..." (Hoekema, The Four Major Cults, p. 328).
There is no doubt that the closing statement of the creed had Arius in mind as it reads:
"But as for those who say, there was when He was not, and, before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the Son of God is from a different... substance, or is created, or is subject to alteration or change - these the Catholic [that is, Universal] Church anathematizes," (Ibid).
A summary of the Arian view follows:
1. The son was created out of nothing; hence, he is different in essence from the Father; that he is Logos, Wisdom, Son of God, is only of grace. He is not so in himself.
2. There was, when he was not; i.e., he is a finite being.
3. He was created before everything else, and through him the universe was created and is administered.
4. In the historical Christ the human element is merely the material; the soul is the Logos. The historical Christ, therefore, had no human soul....
5. The Arians held, that although the incarnate Logos is finite, and hence not God, he is to be worshipped, as being unspeakably exalted above all other Creatures, the immediate Creator and Governor of the universe, and the Redeemer of man.
6. The Arians adhered to the Scriptures, and were willing to employ as their own any scriptural statements of doctrine. (A Manual for Church History, p. 327).
From the foregoing, who, then, would be the modern-day counterparts to Arius?
It is the organization which claims that Abel was the first of their number and then proceeds to claim the rest of the men of God mentioned in the Bible were ancestors to their organization.
Then, beginning with Jesus, they give the remaining line of their ancestors as follows:
"(1) Jesus to Paul, (2) Paul to Arius, (3) Arius to Waldo, (4) Waldo to Wycliff, (5) Wycliff to Luther, and (6) Luther to Charles Taze Russell (Gruss, ?Apostles of Denialo, p. 9).
Who are they?
The modern-day Arians are none other than the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Russell was the founder of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the parent organization of the Jehovah's Witnesses. With the exception of Arius, there is no relationship between the Witness and the line of ancestors claimed by them.
Concerning Waldo, Wycliff and Luther, the only similarity is that they worked outside the Church of their day. These men were all Christian leaders.
Arius, however, is truly an ancestor of the Witnesses. Note the similarity of the Watchtower Christology to that of Arius in the following:
1. The only-begotten Son of God, the only Son produced (created) by Jehovah alone.
2. This Son is the firstborn [to the Watchtower, it means first created] of all creation.
3. By means of him (Jesus) all other things in heaven and on earth were created.
4. He is the second-greatest personage in the universe (Reasoning From The Scriptures, p. 209).
5. The Bible is Jehovah God's written Word to humankind. He used some 40 human secretaries over a period of 16 centuries to record it, but God himself actively directed the writing by his spirit. Thus it is inspired by God (Reasoning, p. 58).
6. But Jehovah God has also provided his visible organization, this "faithful and discreet slave," made up of spirit-anointed ones, to help Christians in all nations to understand and apply properly the Bible in their lives.
Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do (The Watchtower, 1 Dec. 1981, p. 27).
Now there are also some differences between the Christology of Arius and that of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
For instance, whereas Arius would teach that Jesus' human element is merely the material with the Logos being the soul (no human soul), the Jehovah's Witnesses would teach that Jesus was purely man, and as such, he did not possess a soul but he was a living soul.
Also, Arius believed Jesus should be worshipped whereas the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that since one is to worship God alone Jesus should not be worshipped, since he is merely a creature.
However, as demonstrated above, in the most important of doctrines in the Church, Christology, there is more than enough similarity between the two to leave no doubt that the Jehovah's Witnesses are the Arians of our day.
Satan, it appears, is actually limited in the number of tricks he has in his bag. But, he is a rather craft and deceitful fellow and he can take the same old lie that he used over 1600 years ago, take some of the dents out, do a little updating, add a new coat of paint, put it in a brand new package and then sell it as the Truth.
The Apostle Paul, in describing those who would come along and preach another Jesus said:
"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servant of righteousness; whose ends shall be according to their deeds," (2 Cor. 11:13-15).