Lent: Day 18 of 40 - Arius and The Arians

Arius was a hardliner in Egypt, like Donatus before him, impatient with the mollycoddling of backsliders and friends of heathens under persecution. He was pastor to a big suburban Alexandrian congregation, and opposed to the sophisticated folks downtown who seemed to let anything go.

The ideological key to Arius’ heresy is ‘logos’, ‘the Word’ from John’s gospel. Arius says this creation of God in Jesus, making a superman of a human being. Jesus is between God and human, just a better version of us all, but not God.

The Arian heresy wins majority approval, particularly in the barbarian tribes of Goths, Visigoths, Franks, and others. They understood a ‘superman’, who served God, and expected the same from us. It sure beat that sophisticated Greek and Roman speculation and philosophy. This Jesus was just a bigger and tougher intermediate divinity than his competitors.

The Arian heresy reminds me of popular, intellectually sloppy Yankee evangelical piety, with the bumper stickers that say ‘WWJD’ or ‘What Would Jesus Do’, as if Jesus’ job was not already taken. Jesus is not a role model, however superhuman. As C.S.Lewis puts it, a man who said what Jesus did, and claimed to be what Jesus claimed, would not be a great teacher, but either insane, like one who claimed to be a poached egg – or the very devil from hell.

This heresy is big, and popular – offering a superior role model, rather than a distinctive incarnation challenging how we understand our humanity and God’s divinity. It is big, and grows like a weed – suitable for first barbaric impressions, but ultimately inadequate as an account of our faith. Jesus is not a good professional role model, with a short career trajectory and few family values. Go find another hero.

Salvation is a matter of our response, in Arianism. This is a heresy of piety and righteousness. This is a law-and-order Christianity.

What would Jesus do – and why don’t you?

What would Jesus do – and why don’t you?

Let Jesus be Jesus - and just try to do your job, not his!