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African Spirituality

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Egyptian Christianity/A History of the Christian Church in Egypt

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  • Egyptian Christianity/A History of the Christian Church in Egypt

    Alexandria found itself at the center of the Christian theological stage almost immediately after Constantine had legalized Christianity in AD 313. The issue was important, but ecclesiastical politics made it intractable, and catapulted what had been an Alexandrian theological discussion into an Imperial political issue, for good or ill.

    The debate began shortly after AD 311, when a priest named Arius came from Antioch and was appointed to a major Alexandrian church. Arius was charismatic and persuasive and soon turned Alexandria upside down with his controversial views about the nature of Christ. He was opposed by Alexander, who had become bishop of Alexandria in 312 and Alexander’s secretary Athanasius, who became bishop in turn on Alexander’s death in 328.
    The issues were three-fold. First there was the direct theological issue. Arius taught that Jesus was like God, but not fully the same as God, because God had neither a beginning nor an end, but there was a time when Jesus the Son did not exist. This, in Arius’ eyes meant that Jesus was essentially different than God the Father, though also essentially different than humans. Arius taught that Jesus was the perfect image of God (while humans are imperfect images of God).
    The second issue was cultural. Arius came from Antioch, and filtered his theology through a Greek philosophical filter. His language was sophisticated and philosophical, and resonated with the teachings of the pagan Museion or School of Alexandria, and with the teachings of Origen and Clement of earlier generations, at the Didascalia a century earlier. However, Arius also had the gift of popularizing his ideas. He was a good poet and muscian, and versified his theology in a series of popular folksongs, which were sung everywhere in Alexandria. Athanasius, on the other hand, had been born and raised in Alexandria, and was steeped in the mysticism and orthodoxy of the Egyptian Desert Hermits, who viewed the Museion and the Didascalia, and the vulgarity of the ordinary people with suspicion.
    The third issue was political. Bishop Alexander called a meeting of about a hundred local bishops about the year 320, and succeeded in condemning, suspending and excommunicating Arius. Arius, however, did not go away quietly, but appealed to powerful friends, notably Eusebius of Caesarea (the historian) and his namesake Eusebius of Nichomedia, a friend of the Emperor Constantine, who officiated at Constantine’s baptism. Arius and Eusebius of Nichomedia had gone to school together in Antioch.
    Council of Nicea

    Eusebius of Nichomedia persuaded Constantine to call a general (or Ecumenical) council of the Church to resolve the issue. Constantine found the controversy distressing simply because it was divisive. He didn’t really care which way the bishops decided the issue, as long as they unified the church. The Council was called for 325 and met under Constantine’s watchful eye in Nicea. Arius lost the theological debate. The Nicene Creed, reflecting the teaching of the Council, states that the Son was "of one substance — homoousios — with the Father.

    The Council of Nicea did not end the Arian controversies, however. Athanasius, who had come to Nicea with bishop Alexander at the age of 30, had attracted the wrath of some very powerful political figures. When he succeeded Alexander as bishop of Alexandria, was forced to defend his position repeatedly. He was driven from his see five times, joining the Desert Monks in two of those periods of exile. In each case Imperial politics forced him out of office, replacing him with an Arian, or semi-Arian bishop imported from abroad. By the time he died in 373, popular as well as monastic opinion had swung behind him. His final exile in 365-66 was abbreviated because the Emperor Valens could not control the angry population of Alexandria unless he reinstated Athenasius.

  • #2
    Excellent source !!! Thanks, So much for sharing !!!! This raises a lot of questions, At least for me at one time.

    What questions did this raise for you and How did you seek the answers ???

    Are we and Can we handle and accept the truth as it relates to modern day Christianity ??

    Proves that, What may be popular does not mean accurate.

    Much to you and yours, Peace


    • #3
      I enjoy reading the posts about world religions and the different ways of life. My thought is that, as I've said in another post, no one can nor will have it right. I don't believe the truth is available because there is no one alive who can teach us where the beginning of time began, or where and how the space we occupy and exist in came to be. So I've resolved to know as much as I can hold about as much as I can - a jack of all; master of none. LOL

      My name means, in short, knowledge. But to know the origin of all things, which I really, really want to know, escapes me but I to learn and I'll continue to do so.

      Great information Big Brother!! Keep it coming.


      • #4
        very detailed and informative bro Tariq