MODERN-DAY ARIANS: WHO ARE THEY?
By Tommy Dorsett, Watchman Fellowship, Lubbock, TX
One of the greatest of the heretics in all of Church history was
Arius of Alexandria. He lived from about A.D. 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
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 Niceen
Creed was drafted.
This creed says in part, “We believe …in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, begotten from His 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,
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,”
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
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 Denial, 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 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
Arius, however, is truly an ancestor of the Witnesses. Note the
similarity of the Watchtower Christology to that of Arius in the
1. The only-begotten Son of God, the only Son produced (created) by
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
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 uses
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 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 rather crafty and deceitful fellow and
he can take the same old lie that he used 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 servants of
righteousness; whose ends shall be according to their deeds,” (2
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