An Old Challenge
The notion that Jesus was created by God and not co-eternal, stirred a major controversy in the church near the turn of the fourth century. Arius of Alexandria took the debate to a new level by popularizing the thought with a more thorough theology. By the time the First Council of Nicaea was convened in AD 325, Arius doctrine, known as “Arianism”, had become a major problem. At the council, emotions ran high, and both sides of the issues fought passionately for their positions. In the end, Arius’ ideas were condemned and the phrase “being of one substance with the Father” was placed in what would be known as the Nicene Creed, establishing Jesus’ nature as the “everlasting to everlasting.”
The Nicene Creed did not make the Arian controversy disappear, although it did help define an official position for the majority of Christians at the time. Today, its most notable proponents are Jehovah Witnesses who contend Jesus was a created being, and in fact, was actually Michael the archangel.
When I find a debate of this magnitude, I always ask myself, “Is it a matter of salvation?” If it is, then fighting the error becomes as important as delivering the gospel to those who have no working knowledge of Jesus. I honestly don’t believe I can pass eternal judgment on those who have come to know the grace of Jesus in the Arian context. Only God knows the heart of those who have put their trust in His Son. However, I can say Arius’ teaching presents us with a Jesus who is unable to save. A most basic aspect of the atonement was God’s willingness to suffer for our sins. If He merely created a being to take our place, as well as His place, God becomes nothing more than an absent Father who used His creative power to circumvent His personal involvement in our circumstances. Arianism steals away both the power and the heart of the good news.