What Was the Arian Heresy?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The Arian Heresy can be a difficult thing to understand by individuals who have not been raised reciting the Nicene Creed, or in a Christian-based religion. Among other things it demonstrates the long battles, discourse, or wrangling that has surrounded the attempt to discern the nature of Christ. The debate, and expression of the Arian Heresy, came to a head during the Council of Nicea in the 4th century.

The Arian Heresy involves debate over the nature of Christ.
The Arian Heresy involves debate over the nature of Christ.

Founders of the early Christian church, with the aid of Constantine, who was at the time not a practicing Christian, thought it essential that the nature of God, and the belief in God, be clarified. Most important was identifying and defining the divinity of Christ. While many believed that Jesus was son of God and shared his essence, a concept called homoousion, some felt that giving Jesus equal standing with God was not monotheistic.

Arius believed that Jesus Christ was not equal to God.
Arius believed that Jesus Christ was not equal to God.

Principal among these demurrers were Arius and Eusubius. Arius, whose followers were called Arians, felt that God created Christ, not of his own matter. This meant, in his opinion, that Christ was not God and was not equal to Him. Worshiping Christ would be tantamount to worshiping another God, and this specifically went against God's teaching that he alone should be worshiped.

Arius' teachings were called the Arian Heresy because most of the members of the Council of Nicea believed in the equal divinity of Christ and the concept of Jesus as of one essence with God. Since Arius taught a different idea of the nature of Jesus, he was labeled a heretic, and his work was called heresy according to the Church. Diminishing Christ's divinity was thought an evil, and Arius' promotion of the Arian Heresy quickly resulted in his exile.

Arian's exile did not completely cement doctrine of the Roman Church and end the debate. The Council of Nicea did adopt the Nicene Creed, a statement of beliefs that expressly supports the idea of homoousion, that Christ is "one in being with the Father," and "begotten not made." Still, some small sects of Christianity continued to support the Arian Heresy, and would later become the non-Trinitarians.

Today, the Arian Heresy is considered only heretical by Trinitarians. There are many churches that refute the divinity of Christ and do not believe in the combined Trinity. The term heresy has also come to have much less weight in mainstream Catholic thought. At the height of Catholic dominance and power, being considered a heretic could result in excommunication, torture, and execution.

Theologians have tried to investigate how Christ could be both human and divine.
Theologians have tried to investigate how Christ could be both human and divine.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I heard about this wise man Arius. He said the truth: God is One and Jesus is his prophet, not his son. They killed him on the cross and wrote his gospel. Actually, from studying Christian history I can say that the Church was an evil establishment at that time. They killed and denied many gospels just because their evil souls would not accept it.


@anon154407: How did you arrive at that conclusion? The bible clearly teaches a Two power theology and not three! It amazes me how millions follow creeds formulated by the apostate Roman church and then force them into the word of God. It's ridiculous!

The so-called trinity is a false doctrine, a powerful delusion in that people believe a lie rather than the clear reading and meaning of scripture. Also, it may be called Arianism, but he was taught what he believed by respected Christians of the early church [Saint Lucian]. The bible does not speak of a trinity in any way, shape or form.


Arius who? most people do not even know his name, let alone respect him. How long has it been?

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"Romans 1:20 "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" Colossians 2:9.


in order to say that the the doctrine of the trinity is a false doctrine, you must first do away with over half the Bible, and must also consider Christ a liar. If Christ is a liar, then he was a sinner, and if Christ is a sinner, than he is not the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and if he was not the perfect sacrifice for our sins, than there is no such belief as Christianity.

it must also be noted that Christianity has been around for over two-thousand years, and the nicene creed for 1700 years. the fact is that Christianity is systematically sound, meaning that, if one were to read the Bible from front to back, it would be non-contradictory. this is a testament to divine inspiration of the Bible. to change something in the Bible or to call it untrue is to throw out all that is in it. either it is all a lie, or it is all true. there is no middle ground.

Arius tried the middle ground that was non-existent. he was philosophically and theologically flawed, which is why his doctrine fell through and is widely not accepted in many of today's modern churches.


the arians were heretic. they were right in not believing as Trinity which is a false ideology. At that time arius was right to stand them. The time will come when Arius will be respected like Galileo's achievement. Although we may not be able to see this at this century, in the future, not so long the next generation will avoid and laugh at all religion sects of the present world.

Post your comments
Forgot password?