Sample - Chapter 1 - ARIANISM
A huge controversy erupted in the fourth century over heretical claims by Arius, who was born in Libya c. 250 and was ordained as a presbyter by Alexander (Bishop of Alexandria from 311-326). Around 318 Arius proposed that Jesus Christ (the Son) had a beginning, or was bom in time, which was to say that there was a time when He was not. In other words, according to the heretic Arius, the Son of God was a created being. This teaching, known as Arianism, was a by-product of errant Paulinist pretenses; fallacies in the mid-third century by Paul of Samosata that contended there existed no separate Jesus Christ or Holy Spirit (Paul proclaimed that the Son did not come down from heaven and that Christ Jesus was a mere man). As a consequence of his specious teaching Arius was condemned and exiled by Bishop of Alexandria Alexander before then having been excommunicated c. 321.
In 324 the conflict over Arianism became so disruptive that Constantine (the emperor from 306-337) sent letters to Arius and Bishop Alexander in an attempt to quell the difficulty, however, this effort failed and a council in 325 at Antioch was convoked. At this council the majority condemned Arius' heretical teachings and a synodial letter was issued to denounce the view that Jesus Christ was a created being (that there was a time when He was not).
Unfortunately, 325 Antioch failed to deter Arianism and Emperor Constantine called another council in 325, this one was held in Nicaea (325 Nicaea was the First Ecumenical Council). This council deposed Arius and issued the Nicene Creed to oppose Arianism and establish a statement of faith. Arius then swore to follow the Nicene Creed, and to believe as the Church believed (e.g., that Jesus Christ is eternal God), so he was reinstated as a presbyter after 325 Nicaea, however, c. 327 he ascribed to the heresy that the functions in Christ Jesus' soul came from only His divine nature. In fact, at that time Arius also adopted the Anomean heresy that the Father and the Son were unalike, which was to profess that Jesus Christ was less than God; a fallacy in which he persisted until his death c. 336.
325 Nicaea and the issuance of the Nicene Creed served to somewhat restrain Arianism but the heretical beliefs of Arius - that the Son was a created being, the functions of Christ's soul resulted from only His divine nature, and the Son was unlike the Father - experienced widespread support. For instance, pro-Arian Eusebius of Nicomedia acted to have three influential anti-Arian bishops deposed; Eustace (the Bishop of Antioch) in 326, Athanasius (the Bishop of Alexandria) in 335, and Marcellus (the Bishop of Ancyra) in 336. Then Emperor Constantine died in 337 and his son, pro-Arian Constantius (the emperor from 337-361), took over as emperor...the Arian controversy was rekindled.
The ensuant conflict resulted in two major councils in 347. The first was the 347 Council at Sardica (in what is now Sofia, Bulgaria), which initially intended to include both Easterners and Westerners, but the Easterners ended up refusing to attend so Westerners proceeded without them. 347 Sardica issued the Tome of the Westerners, a pronouncement that confirmed the faith of the Nicene Creed and anathematized any contrary belief. The second council was the 347 Creed of the Longlines and it served as the Easterners' counterpart to the Westerners' 347 Sardica. 347 Longlines condemned the Arian propositions that there was a time when the Son was not and that prior to His incarnation He possessed no distinction from the Father. 347 Longlines also confirmed a Trinity of three Persons.
Despite these two mid-fourth century anti-Arian councils the scourge of Arianism persisted. In 359 two more councils occurred, however, each leaned toward Arian (or, actually, Semi-Arian) precepts; the Council of Ariminum (or Council of Rimini) and the Council of Seleucia. Then in 360 Emperor Constantius proposed a new "creed," he claimed that the Nicene Creed was too complex and suggested the construction of a new, and decidedly pro-Arian, creed.
Soon thereafter, Emperor Theodosius I (379-395) battled Arianism by commanding concord between Rome's Bishop Damasus and Alexandria's Bishop Peter - an endeavor that was furthered when Theodosius issued the 380 Cunctos Populos Edict, this required adherence to apostolic teaching and a coessential Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and by adopting the Nicene Creed.
In regards to the Nicene Creed, the 381 Council of Constantinople (the Second Ecumenical Council), that was called by Theodosius, reissued the Nicene Creed and effectively ended Arianism; the Neo-Nicene Faith (expounded by the Nicene Creed as well as by St. Athanasius, St. Gregory the Theologian [or St. Gregory of Nazianzus], and St. Gregory of Nyssa) was declared to be the only permissible faith. St. Athanasius (c. 296-c. 373) was the Bishop of Alexandria from 326-373 (despite having been exiled several times during his reign) and in 340 he penned Three Orations Against the Arians and in 357 wrote his Apology Against the Arians. St. Gregory of Nyssa (330-395) was the venerable St. Basil the Great's brother and the Bishop of Nyssa from 371-395 (the Arians deposed him in 376 and he was reinstated in 378). St. Gregory the Theologian (329-391) was a bishop in Cappadocia and, along with St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom, was one of the three Church Hierarchs - he became the Patriarch of Constantinople in 378. In concert, these three giants of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church helped to extinguish the Arian plague.