No News is New

A Catholic view on old heresies in the news

Category: Arianism

Europes’ Responces to Muslim and Arian Migrations

I don’t know much about the EDL (English Defence [sic, because they are English and not American] League), but their protest against Muslim immigrants in England reminded me of another period of time in which people did great migrations, and to which some parallels can be drawn.

From 541 to around 750, a great plague beset Europe.  Each generation it would return to kill a new wave of people.  Procopius said it killed 10,000 people a day in the capital city of Constantinople.  Entire farming villages were emptied of their people.  Wikipedia suggests up to a quarter of the population was killed.  Combined with this, from 300 to 600 AD massive waves of barbarians began immigrating into and around the Roman empire to take advantage of the accumulated Roman wealth.  As the empire folded in on itself these migrants displaced the locals, causing the foundations to be set for modern nations.  The Huns settled in Hungary, the Anglos in England, the Franks in France, and so forth.  Many of these people were pagan or heretical Arians.  The Lombards established a kingdom in northern Italy and in central Italy the Visigoths reigned — which put the core of Christian lands firmly in heretical Arian hands.  Arians denied Jesus Christ was God and that God became man.

Another group in the 600’s also denied Jesus Christ was God and that God became man.  This group were the newly minted Muslims in the Arabian peninsula — the same religion that is worrying the EDL so much today.  In much of Europe the population has been dropping due to widespread birth control.  A birth rate of 1.59 children per woman was the 2009 EU average, but to hold a population steady it is necessary to have 2.1 children per woman.  Muslim immigrants are coming to Europe to take advantage of the accumulated wealth and work openings that a falling population brings.  To me, this sounds remarkably similar to what took place in Europe in the 500’s.  Declining population plus a group of people who deny Jesus was God moving into formerly Christian lands.  As place names changed in the former migration, there is already sense that place names might well change again:

In the 600’s the pagans and heretical Arians were converted due to the influence of the monasteries and missionaries.  St. Columbanus from Ireland went into what would become France and northern Italy and set up monasteries to Christianize these people who were Arians.  St. Benedict founded the famous monastery at Monte Cassino.  This was the age of monks working to save the souls in Europe.  The Christian love and order that came out of monasteries slowly won people to the faith.  These were lands that were formerly Christian, lost that when Christians couldn’t keep the land populated so non-Christian migrants came in, and then through missionary work regained Christianity.

Only time will tell if Europe will again do the missionary work necessary in their own homelands to evangelize the new migrants who don’t believe that Jesus is God.  History shows it is possible, but only time will show if Europe has the faith to do it once again.


Islam as new religion or old heresy?–plagued-sex-abuse-scandals–safe-daughter.html

Leaving aside the fact that priests commit sexual abuse at a far lower rate than the general public, it is interesting to consider that Islam was at first considered a heresy rather than a new faith.  Originally it was refered to as “Muhammadism”, much like Arianism is named after Arius.

The similarity between Islam and Christianity is quite remarkable.  Most obviously, both are monotheist.  But deeper than that, the five pillars of Islam might be equally valid of Catholics, who make a profession of faith every Sunday, who engage in ritual prayer (with monks and nuns even required to pray 7 times a day, twice more than Muslims pray), who practice almsgiving and have about a month of fasting (Ramadan and Lent are quite similar).  Last of the five pillars, both Muslims and Catholics practice pilgrimages.  Finally, another similarity between both Muslims and Catholics is that we all believe in a radical equality before God; with Muhammad writing “We are all equal in the sight of God” sounding a lot like all “enjoy an equal dignity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1934).

Where the serious differences begin is the the conception of Christ.  Muhammad agreed with Arius that Jesus could not be God — because how can one God be both Father and Son?  From this comes the idea that a new prophet (Muhammad himself) was needed to straighten things out both with the tribal polytheists on the Arabian peninsula as well as with the Christians in northern Africa and Europe.  To Muhammad, all seemed to practice polytheism.

With Muhammad’s conception of Christ as only man and not also God, it hardly seems coincidental that Arianism was thriving right near where Muhammad lived, as Muhammad’s belief was a type of Arainism.  From this perspective, Islam is a revival of an older form of heresy with some mild new twists.  Arius taught around three hundred years after Christ, and three hundred years after that Muhammad taught.  One wonders: perhaps if the Church did better explaining why Arius was incorrect, maybe Islam wouldn’t have started because Muhammad’s grievances against Christianity would have been addressed.  Difference in person but one in essence is hard to understand (it is a mystery), and maybe if there had been a better explanation for Muhammad, he would now be known as a Catholic saint instead of the founder of a religion.

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:

Image used without permission from

Image used without permission from