Struggle Against Arianism



Statue of Saint Ambrose with a scourge symbolizing his exercise of ecclesiastic authority
in Museo del Duomo, Milan.
Unknown Lombard author, early 17 century.


Just as it was the controversey between the Arian strict monotheism and Trinitarian concept of oneness of God in three persons was the reason for his election and annointing as the Bishop of Milan, the controversey and its final determination of faith within the Western Churches wa finalised under the leadership and the whip of Bishop Ambrose.


One of the major wars Bishop Ambrose was to face was the heresy of Arianism which saw Jesus as a man and not as God.


The Arian controversy was a series of Christian theological disputes that arose between Arius and Athanasius of Alexandria, two Christian theologians from Alexandria, Egypt. The most important of these controversies concerned the substantial relationship between God the Father and God the Son


















Tertullian presented the faith as he had received it, holding that there is only one God, but that this God has a son, and that the son has also sent from the father a helper – the Holy Spirit – who is himself of equal status with the Son and the Father. The son does not have a beginning, nor does the Holy Spirit. They are distinct from the Father, yet one with Him, each called God. Tertullian’s formula eventually became the standard explanation of the faith throughout the whole of the church.

Arius was a disciple of Lucian of Antioch and the teaching of Lucian and Arius came to be known as Arianism. Lucian held that Christ was not eternal, but had a beginning; he was not a man like Paul of Samosata had held, nor was he created in the same way as man or any other creation – He was wholly unique.

Arius' explanation was before time began there was only one reality which is God.  Time begins only with change and properties begin only with multiplicity.  So the first existence was when God became the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  See my study on Trinity and Arianism.
The Nicene explanation is that they are three persons, but one God which is a mystery.


In fact, it is claimed that the original Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, slapped Arius (main supporter of Arianism) on the ear at one point at the Council of Nicaea.


The Arian controversy had raged in the Eastern Church since the early 320s. The central issue was whether belief in Christ as being fully God could be reconciled with strict monotheism. The orthodox answer to this question was affirmative, an answer that was finally ratified in the East at the Council of Constantinople in 381. In the same year a Western council met at the Italian city of Aquileia with Ambrose as president.



The Arian Catholic Creed

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD, Creator of Heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible.

And in his Spiritual Son,
Yeshua the Messiah,
Whom was born of Mary and Joseph,
Was not consubstantial nor co-eternal with God the Father almighty,

 Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day His Spirit was resurrected. He ascended into Heaven, And sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty. Whence he shall come again to judge the living and the dead, Of whose Kingdom there shall be no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, The communion of saints, The forgiveness of sins, The resurrection of the Spirit, And life everlasting. Amen.


In this theology Jesus was not a God but was his Prophet with the Spirit if God in him.  This teaching is still with us through Islam.




The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.


And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
begotten of His Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God,
begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father,
by whom all things were made
who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.




And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.


How do we reconcile monotheism with the God in Three Persons.


In the beginning God alone existed.  But such an isolated God cannot be defined nor has any purpose since it is the relationship that define properties.  God is love.  But how can God love if he is just that.  In such a situation time does not exist since time is nothing but a measure of change.  Thus inorder to God to exist, and to love and be within time this abosolute point and source which does not have space or time has to create space and time.  This is done when the God essence expands to create a space - which is defined by an existing body, and start existing within time - that is when change take place within the existence.  Both these happens when the essence of God appears in different persons having the same essence and oneness within multiplicity. Thus when God first came into existence he appears in three persons.  Here is how we define the Trinity as God.


Incarnation is the appearance of the Person of the Son of God, taking human form through Mary, a human woman and enter into the limitations of human form, laying down his God privileges.

You can read this aspect of theology and its history in my book






Ambrose studied theology with Simplician, a presbyter of Rome.  Using his excellent knowledge of Greek, which was then rare in the West, to his advantage, he studied the Old Testament and Greek authors like Philo, Origen, Athanasius, and Basil of Caesarea, with whom he was also exchanging letters. He applied this knowledge as preacher, concentrating especially on exegesis of the Old Testament, and his rhetorical abilities impressed Augustine of Hippo who was a manichaen, who hitherto had thought poorly of Christian preachers.


In the confrontation with Arians, Ambrose sought to theologically refute their propositions, which were contrary to the Nicene creed and thus to the officially define orthodoxy. The Arians appealed to many high level leaders and clergy in both the Western and Eastern empires. Although the western Emperor Gratian supported orthodoxy, the younger Valentinian II, who became his colleague in the Empire, adhered to the Arian creed. Ambrose could not sway the young prince's position.


Ambrose had presided in his see about eleven years at the time when the the controversy took a serious turn for absolute decision and definition on these matters of faith, in the western churches.  Valentinian was dead, as well as his eldest son Gratian. His second son, who bore his own name, Valentinian was Emperor of the West, under the tutelage of Justina, his second wife. Justina was an Arian, and brought up her son in Arian faith.


In the East, even though Emperor Theodosius I professed the Nicene creed;  there were many adherents of Arianism throughout his dominions, especially among the higher clergy.


In this contested state of religious opinion, two leaders of the Arians, bishops Palladius of Ratiaria and Secundianus of Singidunum, confident of numbers, prevailed upon Gratian to call a general council from all parts of the empire - a council of Eastern and Western bishops to decide the issue once and for all. This request appeared so equitable that he complied without hesitation. Ambrose, worried that the Arians would pack the council with their own supporters if both the Eastern and Western Churches bishops are invited,  cleverly connived and convinced Gratian to invite only Western bishops.  Ambrose' stand was that this was simply a matter as to the soundness or heresy of just two bishops  and that this might be settled by a council simply consisting of the bishops of the Diocese of Italy alone. Others could attend if they wished.


Accordingly, a synod composed of thirty-two bishops of Western Churches was held at Aquileia in the year 381explicitly to "solve the contradictions of discordant teaching" was  organized by Ambrose, though it was presided over by Valerian, Bishop of Aquileia. The council was attended by thirty-two bishops of the West, from Italy, Africa, Gaul and Illyria.

Secundianus declined even to be present and present their case; Palladius alone was present disputing the legitimacy of the council due to the absence of any Eastern bishop.


Arianism was voted to be in conflict with the Orthodox church in their absence and without anyone to present or defend the case. The two bishops of the Eastern province of Dacia, Palladius of Ratiaria and Secundianus of Singidunum, as partisans of Arius were deposed from their episcopal offices. Even in this case it would seem that the Record is incomplete, as the number of Bishops who gave their decision was only 25, even though 32 were present and the account of Secundianus' case, ends abruptly without recording any decision.


The retort of Palladius was: "You have contrived, as appears by the sacred document (Gratian's amended convocation) which you have brought forward, that this should not be a full and General Council: and in the absence of our Colleagues we cannot answer"


Thus the Arians seperated themselves from the main stream of the Orthodox faith but continues as a seperate Church. Jehovah's Witnesses are modern Arians.


A detailed account of this council can be read from





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