Arianism, although deeply condemned, has had many emanations throughout history. The theology may not be the same, but the founding ideology is that Christ did not always exist. In this section, three modern sources of Arianism will be discussed along with the church’s apostolic response.
Arianism and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
A movement that is gaining popularity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They also teach that Jesus is the son of God and that he is fully divine, but not always eternal. In this view, Jesus was created and Jesus and Satan are brothers.
According to LDS doctrine, Christ was the “firstborn spiritual son of God” (LDS, 9). The founder and first prophet of the church declares: “Among the spirit children of Elohim the firstborn was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all the others are younger” (Smith, 70).
The doctrine of who Christ is differs widely from the historical view of Christianity. However, like the ancient Arians, the scriptures are designed to make the doctrine appear to be in the scriptures.
The point of scripture is another point of contention as the Mormon Church recognizes the King James Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price as scripture. This varies considerably from the scriptures which were listed at the Council of Rome in 382, and are of apostolic origin.
The concept of Christ is so different that the Catholic Church considers Mormon baptisms invalid, and they cite apostolic succession like previous councils etc.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared
“As we can easily see, the similarity of the titles does not in any way correspond to a doctrinal content which could lead to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit mean something totally different to Mormons from the Christian meaning. The differences are so great that this doctrine cannot even be considered heresy arising from a false understanding of Christian doctrine. Mormon education has a completely different matrix. We are therefore not faced with the validity of Baptism administered by heretics, affirmed from the first Christian centuries, nor of Baptism conferred in non-Catholic ecclesial communities ”(Doctrine of the Faith).
Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Person of Christ
Perhaps the most popular example of modern Arianism is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. This group is known by its more popular name of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like the Arians of old, they believe that Jesus was a created being.
Their official doctrinal position is that Jesus is the Archangel Michael and that he was the first being created (Watchtower, 19). According to the doctrinal manual “Jesus is the only direct creation of God ”(Watchtower, 5). According to them, God created Christ and Christ created everything else.
They are very mission oriented and can be seen knocking on doors almost every day. Although admirable, their views on Christ have been condemned down through the ages. The canons of Nicaea still apply to their point of view.
Modernism and Arianism
The third movement that often falls into Arianism is modernism. It may sound shocking, but taken to its logical conclusion it denies the divinity of Christ. Modernism began in the 19e century by elevating human reason as the judge of all.
Human reason is a great gift from God, but modernist theologians have begun to deny the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth, the resurrection, and the divinity of Christ. John Shelby, who was a modernist episcopal bishop, writes: “The New Testament tradition of virgin birth is not literally true. You must not literally believe it ”(Shelby, 215).
He goes on to say that Christ did not really rise from the dead and that his divinity is also questionable. Although modernism is technically defined as a different way of doing things, it is clear that things can get out of hand without a solid authority to guide them.
The church at the end of the 19e and early 20e centuries spend a lot of time fighting modernism. In 1910, Pope Pius X wrote an encyclical entitled The oath against the errors of modernism.
In this encyclical he writes: “I firmly believe that the Church, keeper and mistress of the revealed word, was soon and directly instituted by the true and historical Christ himself, while he sojourned among us, and that the same was built on Peter. , the head of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors until the end of time ”(Denzinger, 550).
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gospel Doctrines Student Manual. Salt Lake City, Utah: 2000.
Smith, Joseph F. Evangelical doctrine. Déseret Publishing. Salt Lake City, UT: 1959. Print.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. THE QUESTION OF THE VALIDITY OF THE BAPTISM CONFERRED IN THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS. Vatican City: 2001.
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The Watchtower. Wallkill, NY: 2010. Print
Shelby John. Saving the Bible from Fundamentalism. Harper Collins. New York: 1991. Print.
Denzinger, Henry and Karl Rahner, eds. The sources of Catholic dogma. Trans. Roy J. Deferrari. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1954. Print.