How long with the Church need to deal with Arius?
The line, “I describe myself as a non-theistic Christian” from the above article expresses so many old fashioned heresies that I at first didn’t know what angle to follow up on. Exploring a heresy around a non-theist Christ seems the most obvious, and that brings to mind Arius.
Arius was a man who had trouble believing Jesus was God. Jesus obviously ate and drank and suffered; all told, the fact that Jesus lived a very human life was obvious to Arius. This 100% humanity caused Arius to think it impossible that Jesus could also be 100% divine. This dovetails greatly with what the Very Rev. Hall states about his current thoughts on Jesus: “Where I am now, how do I understand Jesus as a son of God that’s not magical? I’m trying to figure out Jesus as a son of God and a fully human being, if he has both fully human and a fully divine set of chromosomes.” The question is how does Jesus’ full humanity mesh with his full divinity? The answer of Arius and the Very Rev. Hall is that maybe it doesn’t mesh. Maybe Jesus was just a super awesome example of humanity but not actually divine.
Arius would suggest that the full humanity of Jesus excludes the prospect of divinity, and that also appears suggested by the Very Rev. Hall when he says, “He’s not some kind of superman coming down. God is present in all human beings. Jesus was an extraordinary human being.” The point appears to be that the presence of God in Jesus isn’t that different from the presence of God in us.
This heresy of Jesus being only a super awesome guy but not actually God was first denounced at the Council of Nicaea in 325. From this council we also received the gift of the Nicene Creed (still said at Mass every Sunday). Sadly for the Very Rev. Hall, Episcopalians still adhere to this creed. In it we proclaim Jesus as:
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father
This was placed in the creed explicitly to denounce the Arian idea that Jesus wasn’t God.
But why is this so important? Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought? The answer is very simple: God”. Jesus is God entering into communion with us where we are: in this world!
Jesus’ teaching isn’t all that new or revolutionary, as we can see from Exodus 23:4-5. What Jesus brought that was new to the earth was God himself dwelling among us. It’s easy to forget how greatly God humbled himself out of love for us when we see pictures or think about Jesus in his humanity, like this:
Instead of in his divinity, like this:
It is hard to wrap our heads around Jesus being both fully human and fully divine. Rather than coping out and saying, “Jesus wasn’t divine, there is no theistic part of Christianity” the long tradition of the Church has been to rest in this mystery. So, while an imperfect image because it shows a half of Jesus as human and a half of Jesus as divine (rather than fully human and fully divine), I’ll leave you with this image of Christ Pantocrator to reflect upon this great mystery of God becoming like us in all things but sin: