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The Man who Fought for Doctrine

Athanasius Video


Diagram of the Trinity


This is the first of two videos about Athanasius and the Creed. Many people might regard this as just Catholic hocus pocus and think it irrelevant. However it is this battle for doctrine, that was fought in the fourth century AD, that gave us the main statement of belief of mainstream Christianity. Athanasius, and others like him, had to oppose the church and state authorities of their time, at the risk of their lives, to win this battle. 

I’ve noticed that some teachers today are actually rejecting sound doctrine and creating new doctrine on the hoof. Or to be more accurate regurgitating old false teachings that date back to the earliest days of Christianity. I think it is timely therefore to remember one of the great battles of the past that led to a great victory. That battle was principally between two people. Athanasius and Arius.

Athanasius was born to a Christian family in Alexandria,or possibly the nearby Nile Delta town of Damanhur, sometime between 293 and 298 AD. He was ordained a deacon in the church in Alexandria in 319 by the patriarch(or bishop) Alexander. In 325, Athanasius served as Alexander's secretary at the First Council of Nicaea. This was the first general council of the church. Its main purpose was to resolve differences over the nature of Jesus in his relationship to the Father: in particular, whether the Son had been 'begotten' by the Father from his own being, and therefore having no beginning, or else created out of nothing, and therefore having a beginning.


The idea that Jesus was created, not eternal, was attributed to a man called Arius, a presbyter (or elder) in one of the churches in Alexandria.

Icon of St Athanasius, From Wikimedia Commons

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. 


Extract from the Nicene Creed affirming the eternal nature of Jesus

Arianism was the view that because Jesus was begotten he must have been created rather than eternal. The opposing view held by Athanasius was that Jesus is  eternal although he came to us as a man begotten by a human woman, Mary, and an eternal father.


Arius himself attended the First Council of Nicaea as did Athanasius. Eventually after heated debate the council came down on the side of Jesus being eternal and the teaching of Arianism was condemned. The Nicene creed was produced which supports the doctrine of The Trinity. After the death of the Patriarch Alexander Athanasius became the Patriarch of Alexandria. 


However this was not the end of the matter. Over the years the tide of opinion shifted one way then the other. At times the Arians were brought back into the fold and Athanasius was rejected. He was in fact exiled from Alexandria five times. The fifth exile, in 364, only lasted for a few weeks until he was finally restored to his See.


Arius via Wikimedia Commons

After returning to Alexandria, Athanasius spent his final years repairing all the damage done during the earlier years of violence, dissent, and exile. He resumed writing and preaching undisturbed, and re-emphasized the view of the Incarnation which had been defined at Nicaea. On 2 May 373 AD Athanasius died peacefully in his own bed, surrounded by his clergy and faithful supporters. Arius on the other hand is said to have died an unpleasant death in Constantinople, reported by the historian  Socrates Scholasticus.

As he approached the place called Constantine's Forum, where the column of porphyry is erected, a terror arising from the remorse of conscience seized Arius, and with the terror a violent relaxation of the bowels: he therefore enquired whether there was a convenient place near, and being directed to the back of Constantine's Forum, he hastened thither. Soon after a faintness came over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious hemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died.

This has necessarily been a brief synopsis of a long story. However the main point is that the Creed that Athanasius helped formulate and which he upheld has been the one great unifying statement of belief which unites believers everywhere and as such its creation was a great victory for the church everywhere. In the next video I will go through it and explain why it can never be accepted by those such as Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses who promulgate false doctrine.

Athanasius and the Creed

Athanasius and the Creed Video


Icon depicting Constantine the Great, accompanied by the bishops of the First Council of Nicaea (325), holding the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, via Wikimedia Commons

This is the second video about Athanasius. This time we will be looking specifically at The Nicene Creed which he played such a big part in creating and upholding. There are two other main creeds, The Athanasian Creed and the Apostle's creed but the Nicene Creed is the one which is most commonly adopted.


The Nicene Creed is the defining statement of belief of mainstream Christianity. Most of the major denominations hold to it. Most Pentecostal denominations have not adopted the the historic creeds as statements of faith but although the Creeds themselves may be unfamiliar to many Pentecostals, that doesn’t mean that Pentecostal churches reject or have no place for the Creeds. As Keith Warrington puts it, Pentecostals have “(often unknowingly) affirmed the classical creeds, adopting the orthodox beliefs of the Western Church, as defined by the Council of Nicea” (Pentecostal Theology, p.29).


This is the English translation of the text.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the begotten of God the Father, the Only-begotten, that is of the substance of the Father.


God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten and not made; of the very same nature of the Father, by Whom all things came into being, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.

Who for us humanity and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate, became human, was born perfectly of the holy virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.By whom He took body, soul, and mind, and everything that is in man, truly and not in semblance. 


He suffered, was crucified, was buried, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven with the same body, [and] sat at the right hand of the Father.


He is to come with the same body and with the glory of the Father, to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom there is no end.


We believe in the Holy Spirit, the uncreate and the perfect; Who spoke through the Law, the prophets, and the Gospels; Who came down upon the Jordan, preached through the apostles, and lived in the saints.

We believe also in only One, Universal, Apostolic, and [Holy] Church; in one baptism with repentance for the remission and forgiveness of sins; and in the resurrection of the dead, in the everlasting judgement of souls and bodies, in the Kingdom of Heaven and in the everlasting life.


Russian icon of the Prophet Isaiah, 18th century icon painter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. The orthodox church accepts the Nicene Creed

The issue for Athanasius and others like him was that Jesus was begotten as a man to a human mother and an eternal father. This does not mean he was created as He has existed as part of the Godhead for all time. In fact the bible clearly states that Jesus and His father are one. Everything is made clear in Isaiah 9:6


[Isa 9:6 KJV] 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

So Jesus and the Father are everlasting. The other issue that needed to be made clear was that three members of the Trinity are of one substance but different persons. The three members of the Trinity are named separately in the Nicene Creed to reflect their different personalities.This was made more explicit in the Creed which is named after Athanasius, The Athanasian Creed

Athanasius_I (1).jpg

Athanasius of Alexandria was traditionally thought to be the author of the Athanasian Creed, and gives his name to its common title, via Wikimedia Commons

    That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,

neither blending their persons

nor dividing their essence.

     For the person of the Father is a distinct person,

     the person of the Son is another,

     and that of the Holy Spirit still another.

     But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,

     their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

So why is all this important. It’s important because our faith is based on Jesus Christ. All of us were born sinful because we inherited sin from our fathers. The bible says sin came into the world through one man (Adam) and since then sin has been passed down through the male line. Jesus did not have a human father and therefore he was born without sin and though he was tempted he never sinned. He was and is both fully man and fully God. When he died for us he was a perfect spotless sacrifice that paid the full price, once and for all, for all our sins. Only a totally perfect sacrifice could have done this.

He is not a created being, as can be said of Satan, He is eternal and he is a separate person from His Father and from the Holy Spirit. Only believers are able to accept this. Muslims cannot accept that he is God or God’s son. Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot accept the he is God and have altered their bible to eradicate references to Jesus as God. Mormons also cannot accept that Jesus is God. However the ordinary mainstream believer in the street is able to accept it. This is the work of The Holy Spirit.

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