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Arian, Aryan — What’s the Diff?
Fathers of the Church ^ | May 17, 2008

Posted on 05/18/2008 4:26:22 PM PDT by Huber

There’s an urban legend making the rounds about Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States. The story goes that Vice-President Cheney asked the pontiff what he’s been reading. The Holy Father replied that he’s been researching “the Arian heresy.” Cheney, thinking the pope meant “Aryan,” said, “That must be interesting for you, since you lived through it. And Benedict responded, “I’m old, but I’m not that old.”

It’s a funny story, and I’m told it appeared in the London Times. But I’m afraid I couldn’t find confirmation anywhere on the Web.

So I went over the head of the World Wide Web and sought out an expert: the political scientist Dr. Joseph Heim of California University of Pennsylvania. And Joe put me on to the likely source. Cheney wasn’t the political figure; it was Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. And Boris didn’t flub the historical facts quite as badly as the urban-legendary Cheney; the media did. The true story is still very good, and it’s told with great theological precision by Christopher Howse in the London Telegraph, under the title “Boris Johnson and the Holy Trinity.”

Poor old Boris Johnson made a couple of jokes after his election as mayor of London that were mistaken by commentators for learned showing-off. “I am just totally fed up with this artificial distinction … this sort of Arian controversy about the old Boris and the new,” he had declared. “There is no distinction between the old Boris and the new Boris. They are indivisible, co-eternal … consubstantial.”

The Evening Standard was still quoting him on Tuesday as talking about an “Aryan” controversy, as if it were about racial theory. It was certainly “Arian”, for all he meant was that such distinctions were, as the cliché puts it, “theological”. Mr Johnson prefers avoiding clichés by making them concrete. So he jokingly pretended that his interlocutors were familiar with the Arian controversies of the fourth century.

I suspect that he himself is more familiar with Edward Gibbon’s account of the heresy promoted by the Egyptian bishop Arius, rather than with recent theological studies of Arianism. “The post-war period has been astonishingly fertile in Arius scholarship,” writes Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his controversial book Arius: Heresy and Tradition. I say “controversial”, but the book was published by Dr Williams before homosexuality and sharia distracted the world’s attention from almost anything else he said.

Gibbon’s endeavour in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire had been to show that the whole controversy was ludicrous. His motive was hatred for the Christianity against which he had turned after a youthful period of devotion.

In recounting the fortunes of the Arians, Gibbon mocked the terminology in which theologians of the time were entangled. “I cannot forbear reminding the reader,” he remarks in a mischievous footnote, “that the difference between the homoousion and homoiousion, is almost invisible to the nicest theological eye.”

That can hardly be a very honest judgment. There is only one letter’s difference between the two Greek words, but so there is between the English food and wood, though the latter would be a disappointing dinner. All the marvels of computer science depend on the simple distinction between the two figures 0 and 1.

I don’t want to spoil Boris Johnson’s joke, but the question of whether Arius’s followers had got it right is no trifling matter. On those obscure Greek words depends the answer as to who Jesus Christ is. That is the central point of the Christian religion.

One often hears people saying things like, “Jesus wasn’t God. It says in the Bible he was only the Son of God.” Yet to the Christians of the first centuries, it was vital to recognise the Son of God as fully God and fully man. That is why the framers of the Book of Common Prayer in 1662 included the Athanasian Creed in it.

In the 19th century there was a hot argument about whether this creed should be recited in church. (That is another story.) The Prayer Book directs that its should be recited on solemn days, such as Whitsun, which falls tomorrow. After some difficult-sounding statements about God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the Creed says: “He therefore that will be saved must think thus of the Trinity.”

It is no longer the style to claim that a specified faith is necessary to salvation (that is, going to heaven). Yet believers feel that they can pray more coherently if they have some idea of whom they are praying to when they say “Our Father”, or when they hear a Collect in the Prayer Book end: “Through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

The difficulty of saying anything true about God in limited human language is nothing new. St Augustine, the great north African bishop, wrote 1,600 years ago about the three-in-oneness of the God the Holy Trinity: “Three whats?” in God he asks. Human language can hardly express any answer. “One can reply, ‘Three persons’,” says Augustine, “less in order to say what is there than in order not to be reduced to silence.”

Still, we do know a little about what a person is. We know something of the relationship that distinguishes Son from Father, and of the relationship between lover and beloved (which distinguishes the Holy Ghost).

If Boris Johnson can say of himself that he is the same person as he ever was, it is partly because theologians have sharpened the concept of what being a person means.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events
KEYWORDS: anglican; benedict; cheney; patristics

1 posted on 05/18/2008 4:26:22 PM PDT by Huber
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[ "Yet to the Christians of the first centuries, it was vital to recognise the Son of God as fully God and fully man. That is why the framers of the Book of Common Prayer in 1662 included the Athanasian Creed in it." --Huber]

2 posted on 05/18/2008 4:29:36 PM PDT by Huber (And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. - John 1:5)
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To: Huber

With the rise in secularism and the recent reduction in school-imparted knowledge and wisdom has come a dimished capacity to understand such things as ancient theology. In this day and age of post-modernism and multi-culturalism, it is not surprising that people mistake “Arian” for “Aryan.”

3 posted on 05/18/2008 4:31:53 PM PDT by nwrep
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To: Huber

That was indeed educational, I’m not saying such things are trivial but it can get silly when one starts splitting theological hairs.

Now, if I catch you cracking your hardboiled egg at the wrong end, however, I am duty bound to kill you on the spot...

4 posted on 05/18/2008 4:34:46 PM PDT by sinanju
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To: Huber; Grig; sevenbak; fproy2222; Saundra Duffy; lady lawyer; Utah Girl; Enough_Deceit; ...


5 posted on 05/18/2008 4:38:10 PM PDT by restornu (The Opposition spends all its time "playing goalie" hoping others will not READ the BOOK OF MORMON!)
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To: Huber

My ELCA congregation said the Athanasian Creed today. One very important reason for retaining the “green book”.

6 posted on 05/18/2008 4:38:57 PM PDT by lightman (Waiting for Godot and searching for Avignon)
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To: Huber
For those who are not familiar, the Athanasian Creed:
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Etneral and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity is Trinity, and the Trinity is Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world. Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

7 posted on 05/18/2008 5:25:07 PM PDT by markomalley (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus)
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To: sinanju
Now, if I catch you cracking your hardboiled egg at the wrong end, however, I am duty bound to kill you on the spot...

LOL! Been reading Swift recently?

8 posted on 05/18/2008 5:34:51 PM PDT by Huber (And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. - John 1:5)
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To: Huber

In the 17th century Issac Newton became a big promoter of the arian heresy. He was considered a near demigod in the english speaking world for over two centuries. His influence first begat the Unitarian church in the 18th century. When Benjamin Franklin returned from England —he returned with a unitarian preacher. The big exciting subtext in the USA of the first half of 19th century literature was the arian heresy. after herman mellville finished Moby Dick he began to attend a unitarian church. In Europe the arian heresy took hold under the guise of
“higher criticism”. This “scholorship” viewed the bible on the same level as greek mythology. Higher chriticism jumped the atlantic wholesale to the USA in the late 19th century. By 1930 all seminaries of today’s liberal denominations went over to higher criticism—making them covert advocates of the arian heresy. Covert because most people in the pews of the liberal denominations didn’t get the message overtly for another 50 years or so. The pastors would say one thing meaning it one way and the people in the pews would hear it another way.

The effect of the arian heresy is that all the promises of God in Christ are aborted. There is no access to God, no forgiveness of sins, no adaption. The God worshipped in the churches of the arian heresy — has no power. The only power available is what can be ginned up in the congregation. The effect of this was that the arian churces were defenseless against the claims of the atheists in Europe. So the churches there are largely abandoned today.

In the USA the effects of the arian heresy are apparent in the liberal denominations that promote homosexuality—even in the clergy. The poor unitarians in the 19th century counted 5 presidents in their denomination. Today no president could come from the unitarians. The never had a moral center. Their moral base was a reflection of the culture. When the culture went bad so did the unitarians. These days the unitarians promote a kind of pan spermia sexuality in the pews. The more partners the better. The unitarians have become an embarrassment.

9 posted on 05/18/2008 6:55:47 PM PDT by ckilmer (Phi)
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To: ckilmer

So the Unitarians once upon a time actually stood for something?

10 posted on 05/18/2008 7:55:51 PM PDT by sinanju
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To: sinanju

The unitarians were the liberals of the 18th century.

11 posted on 05/18/2008 8:25:40 PM PDT by ckilmer (Phi)
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To: Huber
Monsignor began his homily Sunday with a story of a kid who was being confirmed. The bishop asked the kid what the Trinity was. "One God, three persons," replied the kid. "I don't understand," said the bishop. "You're not supposed to," replied the kid. "It's a mystery."

Works for me.

12 posted on 05/19/2008 6:41:23 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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