There is a common perception that Christianity has always been following the doctrines like Trinity , Original Sin, Redemption and Crucifiction of Christ; this is far from truth. After doctrinal differences with Paul, the monotheists like Barnabas did not sit idle but continued preaching the true message of monotheism of Jesus Christ.
The followers of Barnabas never developed a central organization. Yet due to the truthfulness of simple theology and devotion of their leaders, their number increased very fast. These Christians incurred the wrath of the Church and systematic effort was made to destroy them and to obliterate all traces of their existence including books and churches. The lesson of history, however, is that it is very difficult to destroy faith by force. Their lack of organization became a source of strength because it was not so easy to pick them up one by one. Later many doctrines and groups appeared inspired by the teachings of Barnabas; however they avoided mentioning name of Barnabas due to the fear of persecution.
Monarchianism was a Christian dissent sect that developed during the 2nd and 3rd centuries C.E. It opposed the doctrine of an independent, personal subsistence of the Logos, affirmed the sole deity of God the Father, and thus represented the extreme monotheistic view. Though it regarded Christ as Redeemer, it clung to the numerical unity of the Deity. Two types of Monarchianism developed: the Dynamic (or Adoptionist) and the Modalistic (or Sabellian).
The Dynamic Monarchianism held that Christ was a mere man, miraculously conceived, but constituted the Son of God (servant of God, in Hebrew terminology) simply by the infinitely high degree in which he had been filled with divine wisdom and power. This view was taught at Rome about the end of the 2nd century by Theodotus. About 260 C.E it was again taught by Paul of Samosata. It is the belief of many modern Unitarians Christians. Modalistic Monarchianism took exception to the “subordinationism” of some of the Church Fathers.
Modern research has brought to light odd facts about these Christians. They are like the crests of waves and looking at them one can visualize a whole body of ocean not yet visible. It is noticed that up to the 4th century C.E there existed a sect known as Hypisistarians who refused to worship God as father. They revered God as an All Mighty Ruler of the world, He was the Highest of all and no one was equal to Him.
Paul of Samosata:
Paul of Samosata, a Monarchianist was a Bishop of Antioch in 260 C.E. He was of the view that Christ was not God but a man and a prophet, he was a man who was born of Mary, through whom God spoke his Word (Logos). He differed only in degree from prophets who came before him and that God could not have become man substantially.
Bishop Lucian of Antioch:
History come across another Bishop of Antioch; Lucian. As a Bishop his reputation for sanctity was not less than his fame as a scholar. He came down strongly against the belief of Trinity. He deleted all mention of Trinity from the Bible as he believed it to be a later interpolation not found in the earlier Gospels. He was martyred in 312 C.E by torture and starvation for refusing to eat meat ritually offered to the Roman gods.
Arius (250-336)–A Remarkable Unitarian:
Arius (250-336 C.E) is the famous disciple of Lucian of Antioch He was a Libyan by birth. Peter Bishop of Alexandria ordained him a Deacon but later excommunicated him. Achilles the successor of Peter again ordained Arius as priest. Alexander the next Bishop of Alexandria once again excommunicated him. Arius however had gathered such a large following that he became a headache for the Church. If kept out of Church he could be a great danger to her but he could not be accommodated within the Church as he wanted to establish the unity and simplicity of the Eternal God. He believed that how so ever much Christ may surpass other created beings he himself was not of the same substance as God. He was as human being as any other man. His teachings gave rise to a theological doctrine known as ‘Arianism’, which, in affirming the created, finite nature of Christ, was denounced by the early church as a major heresy. As an ascetical (renouncing material comforts and leading a life of austere self-discipline, especially as an act of religious devotion.), moral leader of a Christian community in the area of Alexandria, Arius attracted a large following through a message, which accented the absolute oneness of the divinity as the highest perfection, with a literal, rationalist approach to the New Testament texts. This point of view was publicized about 323C.E through the poetic verse of his major work, Thalia (“Banquet”), was widely spread by popular songs written for labourers and travelers.
Hence the monotheistic teaching of Arius spread like wild fire and shook the very foundation of the (Pauline) Church. The controversy that was simmering for three hundred years suddenly became a conflagration. No man dared to oppose the organized Church but Arius did, and remained a headache for her whether he was ordained a priest or was excommunicated. During this time some events changed the history of Europe.
Arianism- The Monotheistic Christianity:
Arianism may summarized as; “The Christ is not truly divine but a created being. Arius’ basic premise was the uniqueness of God, who is alone self-existent and immutable; the Son, who is not self-existent, cannot be God. Because the Godhead is unique, it cannot be shared or communicated, so the Son cannot be God. Because the Godhead is immutable, the Son, who is mutable, being represented in the Gospels as subject to growth and change, cannot be God. The Son must, therefore, be deemed a creature who has been called into existence out of nothing (through Word, Logos or Command) and has had a beginning. Moreover, the Son can have no direct knowledge of the Father since the Son is finite and of a different order of existence.”
How Trinitarians Became Dominant Group:
Emperor Constantine-I brought a greater part of Europe under his rule and secondly he began to support the Christians without accepting Christianity. To the soldier prince the different creeds within the Christian faith were very confusing. In the Imperial Palace itself the controversy was raging not less fiercely. It appears that perhaps the Queen Mother was inclined towards Pauline Christianity while his sister Princess Constantina was a disciple of Arius. The Emperor was wavering between the two faiths. As an administrator he was interested only in uniting all the Christians within one Church. It was at this time that the conflict between Arius and Bishop Alexander became so widespread and so violent that it became a law and order problem. So the Emperor anxious to maintain peace in the newly unified Europe had to intervene.
Council of Nicea (325) & Doctrine of Trinity:
In 325 C.E a meeting of all denominations of Christianity was called at Nicea (Now Isnik, a village). Bishop Alexander was not able to attend the conference and he deputed his lieutenant Athanasius, who subsequently succeeded Alexander as Bishop of Alexandria. The conference had many prolonged sessions. Emperor Constantine could not grasp the full implications of the ecclesiastical confrontation, but he was very clear in his mind that for maintaining peace in his realm the support and cooperation of the Church was necessary. Accordingly he threw his weight behind Athanasius and banished Arius from the realm. Thus the belief of Trinity became the official religion of the empire.
Arianism (Monotheism) as an Official Faith:
Fearful massacre of Christians (Arians) who did not believe in Trinity followed. It became a penal offence to possess a Bible not authorized by the Church and according to some estimates as many as 270 different versions of the Bible were burnt. Princess Constantina was not happy at the turn of events. The Emperor ultimately was persuaded to accept the faith of the men he killed. The result was that Arius was called back in 346 C.E. The day Arius was scheduled to visit the Cathedral of Constantinople in triumph, he died suddenly. The Church called it a miracle. The Emperor knew it was a murder. He banished Athanasius and two other Bishops. The Emperor then formally accepted Christianity and was baptized by an Arian Bishop. Thus Monotheism became the official religion. Constantine died in 337 C.E followed by Emperor Constantanius, he also accepted the faith of Arius (monotheism).
Monotheism Accepted, True Christian Faith:
Conference of Antioch (341 C.E)
In 341 C.E. a Christian church council was held in Antioch (modern Antakya in southeastern Turkey) and Monotheism was accepted as a correct interpretation of Christian faith. This council was held on the occasion of the consecration of the emperor Constantine-I’s Golden Church there. It was the first of several 4th-century councils that attempted to replace orthodox Nicene theology with a modified Arianism. Attended by the Eastern emperor Constantius-II and about 100 bishops. The council developed four creeds as substitutes for the Nicene, all of them to some degree unorthodox and omitting or rejecting the Nicene statement that Christ was “of one substance” (homoousios) with the Father. The disciplinary 25 canons of Antioch are generally thought to have come from this council, but some scholars believe they were the work of an earlier council (330) at Antioch.
Council of Sirmium (351 C.E):
This view was confirmed by another Council held in Sirmium in 351 C.E. As a result Arianism was accepted by an overwhelming majority of Christians. St. Jerome wrote in 359 C.E that ‘the whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian’. Indeed, for more than 40 years after the death of Constantine, Arianism continued to be the official orthodoxy of the Eastern Empire.
Arians Declined in Numbers but Survived:
After Constantius’ death (361 C.E), the orthodox Christian majority (Trinitarians) in the West consolidated its position. The persecution of orthodox Christians conducted by the Arian emperor Valens (364-378 C.E) in the East and the success of Basil the Great of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus led the Homoiousian majority in the East to toe the line of the Nicene party. When the emperors Gratian (367-383 C.E) and Theodosius-I (379-395 C.E) took up to favour orthodoxy, Arianism had to recede. In 381 C.E the second ecumenical (concerned with establishing or promoting unity among churches or religions.) council met at Constantinople. Arianism was proscribed, and a statement of faith, the Nicene Creed, was approved. However the basic doctrines of Arianism continue to survive and expand with different forms & names within Christianity and beyond.
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