Pro Arius. Strengths of His Argument

During the third and fourth centuries the Church was at debate over the exact relationship between the Father and the Son. One of the theological ideologies at the forefront of the debate was that of Arius, a priest in Alexandria. He used a richly buttressed philosophical approach to untangle the mystery of who Christ is. In short, Arius espoused that Jesus was not fully divine, but rather a creature created by God, as were all beings on Earth. One of the critical aspects of Arius’ argument distinguishing between God and Jesus is that God existed before all and created all. Arius argues how the Father, “exists unbegun” and that the Son “existed at the paternal will”. In this logical argument, Arius draws the reader’s attention to how God has existed eternally, since before the beginning. Jesus he argues however only came into existence as flesh millennia after the Father. The Father was the creator, and created the Son at his own will as an example of humans to live by. IN his response to Alexander, Arius emphasizes that there is, “one God, the only begotten, only eternal, only without beginning, only true, who only has immortality, only wise, only good, the only potentate”. Arius’ use of parallel syntax creates huge emphasis on the fact that God is the only divine, God is singular. Even better, Arius states that he, as a priest, has learned this through the Church that Alexander is in charge of, thus discrediting Alexander himself. Thirdly, Arius believed that Jesus could not be considered divine because Jesus, “moved in the realm of the changeable world”. In this world Jesus changed. On the very basic level, he grew up and matured from a young boy into a man. By definition, the divine was incapable of changing.
Arius is not saying that Jesus was not an important figure in Christianity. That is not his point at all. He just believes that God is the singular divinity and that Jesus was the perfect being created by God as a demonstration for all people to live by. Arius uses a superior skill of logical debate in his argument that cannot be disputed.

1. Matryrdom of Polycarp

In the Martyrdom of Polycarp there are numerous similarities between the Passion of Christ and Polycarp’s death. Polycarp was an elderly man and the bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor. After the persecution and martyrdom of several Christians, the Romans began to hunt down Polycarp in order to kill him. Polycarp knew of his impending persecution, as does Jesus in each of the Gospels, but he was not afraid. He was in control of the whole issue, as is Jesus, specifically in the Gospel of John. Polycarp, “when he first heard the news, was not disturbed, in fact he wanted to stay in town…” (5:1). When the Romans finally caught up with him, he even had a chance to escape, like Jesus could have saved himself, but instead Polycarp said, “…’May God’s will be done’…” (7:1). Similarly, Jesus accepts what must happen to him I order to fulfill the scriptures. Polycarp has a vision in which he realizes that he must be burned alive. Being burnt, he is similar to a burnt offering to God, just as Jesus was portrayed as the paschal and sacrificial Lamb of God in John’s passion narrative. Polycarp is not afraid of upset about his death, but instead confronts his persecution with courage and almost enthusiasm as he can soon join other martyrs and other Christians in the Kingdom of Heaven with God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Polycarp’s joy in death is a sign to all Christians that death is not bad. It is not the end, but merely the beginning of a better after life in Heaven. Knowing this should comfort all who are faced with death.
Going back to Polycarp’s death, it is said that he is burnt, “not like flesh burning, but like bread braking, or like gold and silver being refined in a furnace” (15:2). In death, Polycarp is transformed into something better than he originally was, like a phoenix rising from ashes. This action further strengthen the witness’s belief in the power of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Didache (1)

The leader ship of the Church of the late first century and the early second century had to confront the issues associated with an expanding organization. Similar to the problems of growing business. As it enlarges and spreads across the Greco-Roman world, the bishops and leaders of the Church, which is in itself a new term, have to try to control problems arising in all of the different communities. They do so by establishing leaders in each parish that try to enforce the rules and life style of Christianity. The communal followings stay in contact with the larger Church by exchange of letters too.

In the excerpt of the Didache that we read, it seems that one of the larger problems that the Church is facing is the attempts of people to take advantages of communities by imitating prophets. People come into the village, pretend to be inspired by God, do false preaching, and then ask for money or other goods in return. To conflict this problem, the Church sent out letter to its followers trying to give advice in order to tell a false prophet from true prophet, and how to treat each accordingly. One example was that if the prophet asks for money upon leaving, he probably was just a thief. The problem with this type of recognition was that you could only discern a phony from a real prophet after you opened up your house or village to them, and treated them well. They basically already got what they wanted. In order to confront this, I believe the Church may have needed to place more bishops or deacons in proportion to the growing number of followers in order to help maintain order as the Church grew and became more organized over the centuries.