Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An Eighteen Hundred Year-Old Conflict Rooted In Pride?

     Reading "A Theology For The Church" edited by Daniel L. Akin, particularly the chapter titled "The Nature of God: Being, Attributes, and Acts" written by Timothy George, I was very surprised to learn on pages 211-212 that Athanasius was the bishop of Alexandria in Egypt while Arius was an elder in the same church. Recall that a conflict developed between the two about the nature of God, with Athanasius contending for Christian orthodoxy regarding the Trinity that accurately reflects the message of God's Word and Arius advocating a heretical position that both denied the triune nature of the Godhead and the worthiness of the Lord Jesus Christ to be worshiped.
     How could I have missed so important a point as that? Could this entire matter be the result of a clash of personalities? Might Arius have been jealous of the much younger Athanasius for being appointing bishop while he was passed over for promotion? Is this close association between one of the most courageous defenders of truth and one of the most divisive of heretics known by many but not known to me? Or is this a fact that has not been widely disseminated? I confess that I do not know.
     What I do know is that pride is often at the root of many conflicts in which honest disagreement about doctrine is pretended. Could such be the case with Arianism, and its heirs Islam and Jehovah's Witnesses? I confess that I do not know. However, I would not be surprised to learn this is the truth when I get to heaven.
     Pride is a despicable sin. It was one of the sins of Lucifer, along with lies. When you think of it, pride and lies are everything Satan has been guilty of since his fall. And when the serpent enticed Eve he did so with lies and the enticement to pride.
     I know that the theological dispute between Athanasius and Arius is recorded to have turned on the relationship of the Son of God to the heavenly Father. However, I cannot help but be suspicious after forty years of ministry that what started it all was jealousy resulting from wounded pride. How carefully we must be on guard to preserve our humility.