Rubenstien, Richard E. When Jesus Became God. The epic fight over Christ’s divinity in the last days of Rome. Harcourt Brace & Company. 1999.
R.R.- professor of Conflict Resolution and Public Affairs at George Mason University.
I selected this book at the local library primarily because of its title- subtitle. When I saw an endorsement by John Shelby Spong, I had my ‘defensive radar’ up. Considering where the author was coming from with his expertise about conflict resolution helped me maintain an open-minded attitude. To me the ‘Arian Controversy’ was a new topic so (again) I became a learner. As a student of history I found this read quite interesting.
The Arian Controversy took place in the fourth century. At issue was the belief in the divinity of Christ, the equality of God the Father with Jesus Christ the Son. The resulting confrontations were dealt with by Councils of church leaders but they often became violent away from Council chambers.
During the time of Diocletian and Galerius Christianity came under attack in the form of serious and violent persecution. When Constantine became emperor he became a Christian through a divine encounter and promptly declared Christianity as the state religion. For this to become a reality required a series of meetings of the church leaders to come up with appropriate ‘documentation’ to explain Christian beliefs. It was a process that took many years and an ongoing controversy that impacted the process was the Arian controversy. Some key ‘players’ in this process were Hosius of Cordova, Alexander of Alexandria, his deacon Athanasius, Arius (the primary “subordinationist” (54)), Eusebius of Nicomedia, Theodotus of Laodicea, Narcissus of Nerconias, and Eusebius of Caesarea.
In the summer of 325 the Great Council was held at the summer home of Constantine at Lake Nicaea. Constantine hosted the Council and Hosius chaired it. The most significant accomplishment of this gathering was the Nicene Creed. The goal of bringing opposite sides together (Arian controversy) did not happen. Constantine saw himself as a peacemaker.
Athanasius waged an aggressive campaign against Arius (Arians). Constantine vacillated between the two with his support. He wanted peace. The death of Arius did not end the controversy but it had a tempering effect. The death of Constantine was followed by a time of violence as the control of the empire was disputed. The Arian controversy continued but it became a contest of the west (Arian) against the east (Nicene).
The movement that Constantine began became a reality some seventy years later when Theodosius became emperor. Arianism was banned and Theodosius declared Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. With the acceptance of the teaching of the Trinity Jesus had become God (according to the author). The disappearance of Arianism coincided with the rise of Islam.