In the history of Christian doctrine, the cities of Antioch and Alexandria stand out as centers of theological development in the early church. Many of the major promoters of heresy hailed from these cities, but defenders of orthodoxy came from both cities as well. When it came to the debates over the deity of Christ, Antioch, which is located in modern Turkey, was a center of Monarchian thought. And of those Antiochenes known for their denial of Christ’s deity, none are more famous than Arius.
Arius wanted to preserve monotheism, and he believed that any attempt to equate Jesus with the Father destroys the biblical affirmation that there is but one, true God (see Deut. 6:4). According to Arius, God the Father alone is eternal and uncreated. Everything other than the Father is created, and this includes His Son, whom the Father made before anything else. The Son is a perfect creature, but He is a creature nonetheless — even if He was the agent through whom the Father created everything else.
During the early part of the fourth century, Arius came to Alexandria and began promulgating His views. He soon ran into difficulties because the Alexandrian theologians held to a more orthodox view of Christ’s deity. In the year 321, Bishop Alexander expelled Arius from the city. Yet Arius’ popularity grew while he was in exile and soon the entire Roman Empire became embroiled in the christological debate.
Even though he did most of his work after the Council of Nicea, which convened in 325, Athanasius remains the most familiar defender of orthodoxy associated with that gathering. At Nicea, the church officially recognized that the Father and the Son are homoousios, Greek for “of the same essence” (see John 1:1). Even though the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father, both persons are fully God, having the same essence or being. The Father and the Son, along with the Holy Spirit, each perform different tasks in redemption, though there was never a time when any of the three did not exist. Anyone who says otherwise does not hold the faith once delivered to the saints.
The deity of Christ is very important. As God He is able to bring us face to face with the Father and restore to us that which has been marred in the fall. Moreover, because Christ is God, there is no idolatry going on when we worship Him. Those who view Him as an exalted created being actually deny monotheism, for they are positing the existence of more than one god. Let us with full confidence confess and proclaim the full deity of our Savior.