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"Jesus whom I know as my Redeemer cannot be less than God." Athanasius

Athanasius (296-373 A.D.)

Born to Christian parents at 296 A.D. and growing up as a Christian, he served as a deacon to Alexander, the Bishop of Alexandria at the time(2). Just as it is said that the emergence of challenges is what creates heroes. In the same scenario, had it not been for the new heresy fathered by Arius, Athanasius wouldn’t have been that much known. Arius, the presbyter from Libya, announced that since the Father begat the Son, then the Son had a beginning in existence and since the Son had a beginning of existence then there must be a time when the Son was not. Arius came up with his conclusion that the Son is basically less than the Father.

For Athanasius and the bishop of Alexandria, Alexander, this is an ultimate denial of the Trinity. The fight started and the disputes spread with both parties having fair amount of supporters. Athanasius’ declaration was that Christ is not of a like substance to God but of the same substance. It wasn’t a splitting of theological hairs for Athanasius but rather a philosophy which puts the subject of salvation itself at stake. For humanity to be atoned of its sin, there has to be a person who is fully man and also fully divine. Moreover, Athanasius reply was that those who claim that there was a time when the Son was not ultimately rob God of his word(1). With Arius winning many to his side even the consecutive emperors of the time among whom was Constantine. Constantine sought a council to be held in order to settle down the disputes between these two main streams, the bishops who followed them and eventually the peoples. The Council of Nicene was held and finally the present bishops came up with an early version of the Nicene Creed. This was in fruition of Athanasius treatise: On the Incarnation. Athanasius was then hailed as “the noble champion of Christ” and Arius was put into exile. Athanasius, shortly became the bishop of Alexandria.

Things would look peaceful and the church life returned to its stability which was not the case. Supporters of Arius called Constantine to end Arius’ exile and to order Athanasius to let him back to fellowship(2). Upon Athanasius’ refusal, many turned against him accusing him of many charges which led the emperor to exile him too. Athanasius was exiled five times where he spent 17 years of his 45 bishop years, during which he wrote “the Life of Saint Anthony” book which influenced many to leave paganism and turn into Christianity among whom was Augustine(1).

After his years of exile, Athanasius wrote one of the major letters which influenced Christianity in total where he listed what he believed to be the books of the New Testament. In his words he stated “In these alone the teaching of godliness is proclaimed, no one may add to them and nothing may be taken away from them”(1). This same list of books is the one we use today although there were many other books proposed. This same doctorine is the same Christians adopt today of the complete divinity of Christ. This same person, Athanasius, established by God, to fight the good fight, suffer consequences and finally help in keeping what he has received from the earlier fathers.

(1)Galli and Olsen, 131 Christians Everyone Should Know, Broadman and Holman Publishers,Tennessee,USA.2000

article written by YFH

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