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 Athanasius of Alexandria 
293-295 to 373 AD/CE (78-80 years)
It has been
said that Athanasius of Alexandria is the –
"theological and ecclesiastical centre,
as his contemporary, [Roman emperor] Constantine, is the political and secular,
about which the Nicene Age revolves".
historian Philip Schaff
about 293-295 AD/CE, his life became one of the most dynamic in maintaining the Christian Church's traditional doctrine of the Trinity, particularly in its related importance to personal Christian experience.
"The passion and purpose of his [Athanasius'] life were to vindicate the deity of Christ,
which he regarded as the cornerstone of the edifice of the Christian faith".
ES Moyer
Athanasius, who was born of upper class parentage, was early taken under the wing of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria, and it was in this same city that Arius' challenge to this Christian orthodoxy reared its head.
Alexander rose to the defence of orthodoxy and, even though Arius and his followers were officially condemned in 321 AD/CE, the dispute spread and soon involved the whole of the Eastern ecclesiastical world.
the Council of Nicea, convened by Emperor Constantine in 325 AD/CE, Athanasius accompanied Bishop Alexander as his archdeacon and private secretary. It was the first of the ecumenical councils which consequently sprung young Athanasius into the floodlight of fame. Athanasius regarded the outcome of this Council as –
"a true monument and token of victory against every heresy"
though the decision gave sufficient latitude to invoke the support of the West and most of the East of the ecclesiastical arena, and banished Arius and a few followers, it marked the beginning of the most bitter theological controversy to break on the early Christian Era.
followers of Arius, the Arians, recognised in Athanasius a dangerous opponent, and on Alexander's death in 328 AD/CE he succeeded to the bishopric of Alexandria.
Athanasius has been described as being –
"not a great speculative theologian"
but a man of intense character who "in an age when court favour counted for much, stood like a rock for his convictions".
W. Walker
was inflexible in his attitude toward the Arians, considering them to be the most dangerous enemy to the true faith.
"He opposed them strenuously, employing the most contemptuous terms in his denunciations.
But in the conflict he confined himself to spiritual weapons".
ES Moyer
Athanasius' emphasis on the relevancy of the doctrinal dispute to practical Christian experience was perhaps one of the keys to his success. This concept can be best described as in his own words –
"He [Christ] was made man that we might be made divine"
the deity of Christ was to him the foundation of salvation.
Athanasius suffered persecution but did not practice it. Arius having returned from exile was instrumental in arousing the Meletians to accuse Athanasius before the Council of Tyre in 335 AD/CE. Charged with cruelty and arbitrariness, Athanasius was deposed from his position and banished to Gaul.
Emperor Constantine died in 337 AD/CE, Athanasius and certain fellow bishops were allowed to return from exile.
But, by a later Church synod in Antioch, Athanasius was again deposed and now took refuge in Rome.
With the support of Bishop Julius of Rome the controversy continued and, in spite of the withdrawal of the Eastern bishops from the Council of Sardica in 343 AD/CE, Athanasius returned in triumph to Alexandria in October 347.
February 356 however, political changes brought a reverse again to Athanasius' Nicene position and he was forced from Alexandria by a military force. He found refuge in the Egyptian desert and from here continued his struggle for six years via his writings.
During this time it appeared as though the whole Christian Church had rejected the full deity of Christ.
The appearance of certain extreme Arians began to highlight a 'middle' party forming. In 362 AD/CE Athanasius was restored to Alexandria and an understanding began to grow between him and these 'middle' Arian conservatives.
The question of the relative 'position' of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son in theological discussion unfortunately now became an opportunity to show this as a corollary to the deity of the Son.
Athanasius is thus regarded as laying the foundation for the full traditional doctrine of the Trinity.
an hierarchical Trinity
now grows in reaction
The Filioque Clause
in 365 AD/CE Athanasius was exiled for the fifth time which fortunately only lasted a short while. He died in Alexandria in 373.
His life was the most influential in shaping Christianity's traditional doctrine of the Trinity.
His stand against the perversity of Arianism (which is reflected today in Watchtower/Jehovah's Witness teaching) was not blind dogmatism but born out of a love for the truth as he then saw it in the context of his own time.
life is praised by historian Philip Schaff as "one of the purest, most imposing and venerable in the history of the Church" and by the early church leader Gregory of Nazianzen as –
"When I praise Athanasius, I praise virtue itself, because he combines all virtue in himself"

1. W Walker A History of the Christian Church
2. DO Fuller Valiant for the Truth
3. AM Renwick The Story of the Church
4. ES Moyer Great Leaders of the Christian Church
5. KS Latourette A History of Christianity

Calvinism's Corruptions

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