Modern Day Arians: Who are They?

Tommy Dorsett

One of the greatest of the heretics in all of Church history was Arius of Alexandria. He lived from about AD 280 until 336 and had a profound influence upon the Church.

Arius was a presbyter (member of the governing body) of the Alexandrian Church and he taught that doctrine must be completely reasonable to the human mind or it was not biblical.

When human reason becomes the criterion for Biblical doctrine, limitations are placed upon God who is infinite and His Word via man's finite mind.

Therefore, if a certain doctrine is found to be unreasonable in Man's understanding, it would follow that it would also be unscriptural.

The doctrine of Christ had already been responsible for considerable agitation of the Church. Before Arius came on the scene, heresy had already played a major role in forcing the Church to express definite views of doctrine.

Beginning toward the end of the first century and especially into the second and third centuries, Gnosticism pressured the Church fathers into defining and defending some of the major doctrines of Christianity; particularly concerning Christology (the person, nature, and work of Christ).

The teachings of Arius in the fourth century had the same results. In fact, the greatest theological works and statements of faith produced in the early church were a direct result of answering heretics.

So what was it in Arius' doctrine of Christ that made it heresy?

Arius said: "We must either suppose two divine original essences, without beginning and independent of each other, we must substitute a dyarchy for a monarchy, or we must not shrink from asserting that the logos had a beginning of his existence - that there was when he was not (Albert Newman, A Manual of Church History, p. 326).

This action resulted in a schism of the Alexandrian Church which spread quickly throughout the rest of the Church. It eventually led to the Nicene Council where Athanasius, one of the greatest thinkers in Church history, championed Orthodoxy and the Nicene Creed was drafted.

This creed says in part, "We believe one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only begotten, that is from the substance of the Father... begotten not made, of one substance with the Father..." (Hoekema, The Four Major Cults, p. 328).

There is no doubt that the closing statement of the creed had Arius in mind as it reads:

"But as for those who say, there was when He was not, and, before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the Son of God is from a different... substance, or is created, or is subject to alteration or change - these the Catholic [that is, Universal] Church anathematizes," (Ibid).

A summary of the Arian view follows:

1. The son was created out of nothing; hence, he is different in essence from the Father; that he is Logos, Wisdom, Son of God, is only of grace. He is not so in himself.

2. There was, when he was not; i.e., he is a finite being.

3. He was created before everything else, and through him the universe was created and is administered.

4. In the historical Christ the human element is merely the material; the soul is the Logos. The historical Christ, therefore, had no human soul....

5. The Arians held, that although the incarnate Logos is finite, and hence not God, he is to be worshipped, as being unspeakably exalted above all other Creatures, the immediate Creator and Governor of the universe, and the Redeemer of man.

6. The Arians adhered to the Scriptures, and were willing to employ as their own any scriptural statements of doctrine. (A Manual for Church History, p. 327).

From the foregoing, who, then, would be the modern-day counterparts to Arius?

It is the organization which claims that Abel was the first of their number and then proceeds to claim the rest of the men of God mentioned in the Bible were ancestors to their organization.

Then, beginning with Jesus, they give the remaining line of their ancestors as follows:

"(1) Jesus to Paul, (2) Paul to Arius, (3) Arius to Waldo, (4) Waldo to Wycliff, (5) Wycliff to Luther, and (6) Luther to Charles Taze Russell (Gruss, ?Apostles of Denialo, p. 9).

Who are they?

The modern-day Arians are none other than the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Russell was the founder of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the parent organization of the Jehovah's Witnesses. With the exception of Arius, there is no relationship between the Witness and the line of ancestors claimed by them.

Concerning Waldo, Wycliff and Luther, the only similarity is that they worked outside the Church of their day. These men were all Christian leaders.

Arius, however, is truly an ancestor of the Witnesses. Note the similarity of the Watchtower Christology to that of Arius in the following:

1. The only-begotten Son of God, the only Son produced (created) by Jehovah alone.

2. This Son is the firstborn [to the Watchtower, it means first created] of all creation.

3. By means of him (Jesus) all other things in heaven and on earth were created.

4. He is the second-greatest personage in the universe (Reasoning From The Scriptures, p. 209).

5. The Bible is Jehovah God's written Word to humankind. He used some 40 human secretaries over a period of 16 centuries to record it, but God himself actively directed the writing by his spirit. Thus it is inspired by God (Reasoning, p. 58).

6. But Jehovah God has also provided his visible organization, this "faithful and discreet slave," made up of spirit-anointed ones, to help Christians in all nations to understand and apply properly the Bible in their lives.

Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do (The Watchtower, 1 Dec. 1981, p. 27).

Now there are also some differences between the Christology of Arius and that of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

For instance, whereas Arius would teach that Jesus' human element is merely the material with the Logos being the soul (no human soul), the Jehovah's Witnesses would teach that Jesus was purely man, and as such, he did not possess a soul but he was a living soul.

Also, Arius believed Jesus should be worshipped whereas the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that since one is to worship God alone Jesus should not be worshipped, since he is merely a creature.

However, as demonstrated above, in the most important of doctrines in the Church, Christology, there is more than enough similarity between the two to leave no doubt that the Jehovah's Witnesses are the Arians of our day.

Satan, it appears, is actually limited in the number of tricks he has in his bag. But, he is a rather craft and deceitful fellow and he can take the same old lie that he used over 1600 years ago, take some of the dents out, do a little updating, add a new coat of paint, put it in a brand new package and then sell it as the Truth.

The Apostle Paul, in describing those who would come along and preach another Jesus said:

"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servant of righteousness; whose ends shall be according to their deeds," (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

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EDITOR'S NOTE: We include this amusing article for its limited educational value. Don't ever expect a Jehovah's Witness to so cooperate, nor provide the responses these hypothetical conversations contains. However, there are several good Biblical and a few other good points that are adaptable to real-world scenarions. We "thank" the author for his well-meaning efforts.

Is Jesus a True or a False God?

By Robert M. Bowman, Jr.


When showing Jehovah's Witnesses from the Bible that Jesus Christ is God, it is often best not to question their translation of such key verses as John 1:1 and Titus 2:13. This can be done by sticking to texts such as Isaiah 9:6 and John 20:28 which -- even in the New World Translation (NWT) -- call Jesus "God." That these verses as well as John 1:1 mean that Jesus is Jehovah can be argued using a line of reasoning like the following:

Christian: How many gods are there?

JW: Well, according to 1 Corinthians 8:5, there are "gods many and lords many."

Christian: But, according to John 17:3, how many true Gods are there?

JW: Only one: Jehovah the Father is "the only true God."

Christian: Quite right. Now, would you agree that whatever is not true must be false?

JW: Yes, I suppose so.

Christian: Then, if there is only one true God, all other gods must be false gods, right?

JW: Yes, I can see that.

Christian: Now, according to John 1:1 in the New World Translation, Jesus is a god. Do you agree with that?

JW: Of course.

Christian: Well then, is Jesus a true god, or a false god?

JW: Hmm ... I don't know.

Christian: He can't be a false god, can he, since that would mean the apostle John was guilty of falsely honoring Jesus as a god. Therefore he must be a true God. But Jehovah is the only true God. Therefore, Jesus must be Jehovah.

The usual JW response will be that this argument must have gone wrong somewhere because elsewhere in Scripture creatures are called "gods" without any implication that they are false gods. The texts cited to prove this are always Exodus 7:1, John 10:34 (compare Ps.82:6), and Hebrews 2:7 (compare Ps. 8:5).

An attempt to answer this response by launching into a discussion of the meaning of all these texts would likely result in the discussion being forever sidetracked. Certainly, you may offer to return to the meaning of these texts after finishing the discussion at hand. But I suggest doing an "end run" around these verses that will keep the conversation on track and still show that these verses do not overturn the argument. Here is one approach:

Christian: Those verses that use the plural "gods" cannot possibly be speaking of Jehovah, right?

JW: Of course not, since Jehovah is only one God.

Christian: Right. So these verses could not be misunderstood to be calling creatures "God" in the usual sense. Would you agree?

JW: That's right, but they are still called "gods" in a sense.

Christian: Yes, but whatever "sense" that is, it is not the same sense in which Jehovah is God, right?

JW: Right.

Christian: Now, consider the verses that use the singular "god" of creatures. Most of these clearly are calling creatures "gods" in the sense of false gods, isn't that true?

JW: Yes, but not all of them. Exodus 7:1 says Moses was a god.

Christian: Well, not exactly. Why don't you read it from the NWT?

JW: "Consequently Jehovah said to Moses, 'See, I have made you God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your own brother will become your prophet.'" See, it does call Moses "God."

Christian: More exactly, it says that Jehovah made Moses "God to Pharaoh." Now, what do you think that means?

JW: I think it means that Moses was going to exercise godlike powers over Pharaoh.

Christian: Then why doesn't the NWT translate this verse "make you a god to Pharaoh?"

JW: Uh ... I don't know. Well, maybe it means that Moses stood in God's place, that he represented God.

Christian: So then, Moses wasn't "a god" at all, was he? Wasn't he simply a representative of the only true God?

JW: Hmm. I guess so. But we believe that Jesus is called "God" in this representative sense also -- in John 20:28, for example, when Thomas calls Jesus "my God."

Christian: But surely not in John 1:1, where the NWT calls Jesus "a god." That can't be a "representative" sense.

JW: No, there Jesus is called "a god" because he has godlike powers and qualities.

Christian: But now, you have just admitted that Moses wasn't "a god" in that sense. Is there anyone else in the Bible besides Jesus who is called "a god" -- in the sense of having godlike powers and qualities -- who wasn't a false god?

JW: I can't think of anyone. But why couldn't Jesus be called a god in that sense? He alone was with God at the beginning of the world, assisting Him in the process of creation!

Christian: For the simple reason that the Bible says there is only one God, period (Isa. 43:10; 44:6-8; 1 Cor. 8:4; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19; etc.), and that there is no one who is "godlike" (Isa.40:18, 25; Jer. 10:6-7; etc.). The Bible even denies that powerful rulers (Ezek. 28:2, 9; 2 Thess. 2:4) and spirits (1 Cor. 10:20; Gal. 4:8) are gods.

JW: I didn't know that! But how can Jesus be God when the Bible says that God is his Father?

Christian: How? I don't claim to know how God can be what He is. But I do believe what the Bible says about Him. Do you?

This line of reasoning is not guaranteed to convince a Jehovah's Witness, but it can be helpful in getting the message across.