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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Arians

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Followers of Arius, a presbyter of the church of Alexandria, about 315, who maintained that the Son of God was totally and essentially distinct from the Father; that he was the first and noblest of those beings whom God had created

the instrument, by whose subordinate operation he formed the universe; and therefore, inferior to the Father both in nature and dignity: also that the Holy Ghost was not God, but created by the power of the Son. The Arians owned that the Son was the Word; but denied that word to have been eternal. They held that Christ had nothing of man in him but the flesh, to which the word, was joined, which was the same as the soul in us.

The Arians were first condemned and anathematised by a council at Alexandria, in 320, under Alexander, bishop of that city, who accused Arius of impiety, and caused him to be expelled from the communion of the church; and afterwards by 380 fathers in the general council of Nice, assembled by Constantine, in 325. His doctrine, however, was not extinguished; on the contrary, it became the reigning religion, especially in the East. Arius was recalled from banishment by Constantine in two or three years after the council of Nice, and the laws that had been enacted against him were repealed. Notwithstanding this, Athanasius, then bishop of Alexandria, refused to admit him and his followers to communion.

This so enraged them, that, by their interest at court, they procured that prelate to be deposed and banished; but the church of Alexandria still refusing to admit Arius into their communion, the emperor sent for him to Constantinople; where upon delivering in a fresh confession of his faith in terms less offensive, the emperor commanded him to be received into their communion; but that very evening, it is said, Arius died as his friends were conducting him in triumph to the great church of Constantinople. Arius, pressed by a natural want, stepped aside, but expired on the spot, his bowels gushing out. The Arian party, however, found a protector in Constantius, who succeeded his father in the East. They underwent various revolutions and persecutions under succeeding emperors; till, at length, Theodosius the Great exerted every effort to suppress them. Their doctrine was carried, in the fifth century, into Africa, under the Candals; and into Asia under the Goths.

Italy, Gaul and Spain, were also deeply infected with it; and towards the commencement of the sixth century, it was triumphant in many parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe; but it sunk almost at once when the Vandals were driven out of Africa, and the Goths out of Italy, by the arms of Justinian. However, it revived again in Italy, under the protection of the Lombards, in the seventh century, and was not extinguished till about the end of the eighth. Arianism was again revived in the West by Servetus, in 1531, for which he suffered death. After this the doctrine got footing in Geneva, and in Poland; but at length degenerated in a great measure into Socinianism. Erasmus, it is thought, aimed at reviving it, in his commentaries on the New Testament: and the learned Grotius seems to lean that way. Mr. Whiston was one of the first divines who revived this controversy in the eighteenth century. He was followed by Dr. Clarke, who was chiefly opposed by Dr. Waterland.

Those who hold the doctrine which is usually called Low Arianism, say that Christ pre-existed; but not as the eternal Logos of the Father, or as the being by whom he made the worlds, and had intercourse with the patriarchs, or as having any certain rank or employment whatever in the divine dispensations. In modern times, the term Arian is indiscriminately applied to those who consider Jesus simply subordinate to the Father. Some of them believe Christ to have been the creator of the world; but they all maintain that he existed previously to his incarnation, though in his pre-existent state they assign him different degrees of dignity. Hence the terms High and Low Arian.

See PRE-EXISTENCE. Some of the more recent vindicators of Arianism have been H. Taylor in his Apology of Ben Mordecai to his Friends for embracing Christianity; Dr Harwood, in his Five Dissertations; Dr. Price, in his Sermons on the Christian Doctrine.

See also the 4th vol. of the Theological Repository, p. 153-163, and Cornish's Tract on the Pre-existence of Christ. On the opposite side, Bogue and Bennett's Hist of Dissenters, vol. 3: Abbadie, Waterland, Guyse, Hey, Robinson, Eveleigh, Hawker on the Divinity of Christ;

Calamy, Taylor, Gill, Jones, Pike, and Simpson, on the Trinity.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Arians'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/a/arians.html. 1802.

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