The Split off of Half of Christianity into Arianism
The most pivotal event in Christianity’s history came in 315 with Rome’s emperor issued the Edict of Milan, recognizing Christianity’s right to exist. Before then government employment had been closed to Christians, but after Constantine’s conversion high offices were only open to Christians. The earlier Christians had been the offsprings of martyrs, and they were unhappy at finding their gatherings crowded out by job seekers. They opted to swell the dessert hermitages around Anthony and Pachomius. They wanted to find the God they could not connect with in their noisy assemblies.
Back in the cities things were changing for Christians. Differences that had been suppressed in persecution times now came into the open. The situation was similar to what happened in 1980 with the death of Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito. His strong rule had suppressed the differences between Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, but with him gone their pent up antagonisms broke out. By granting Christians freedom Constantine gave them freedom to fight with one another.
In 320 Alexander who was the bishop of Alexandria received troubling reports about one of the city’s pastors. Father Arius, at age seventy, had been telling his congregation that while Jesus had been a good man, he was not the Son of God.This had Bishop Alexander summoning a synod of priests to weigh the statements Father Arius had been making. They concluded that his views were heretical. The clearest thinker among the priests was Bishop Alexander’s secretary, Father Athanasius. In quoting the first chapter of John’s Gospel, Athanasius pointed to Scripture’s clear teaching that the Word was God, and the Word became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.
Emperor Constantine, who had counted on Christianity's being a force for bringing elements of his empire together, was angered by the emergence of this dispute. Considering the differences to be only an idle debate over words, he commanded Arius and Bishop Alexander to stop debating the matter. But with Father Arius finding strong support in Syria, which was Egypt’s long-time trade rival, his movement mushroomed. Father Arius retired to Nicomedia, a suburb of Byzantium, where Bishop Eusebius became his strong supporter. Father Arius’s heresy, coming to be known as Arianism, spread through the east.
In 325 Emperor Constantine summoned the bishops in his empire to Nicea, a suburb of Byzantium, and he commanded them all to agree to what has come to be known as the Nicean Creed. The following year with the death of Bishop Alexander, Athanasius became the bishop of Alexandria, but all was not quiet.
After they were away from the Emperor’s fearful presence many of the bishops who signed the Nicean Creed complained about its wording. It said that the Son was of one substance with the Father, and those bishops were saying that since “substance” was a Geek philosophical term, it could d not be a matter of faith. (Rome now wants to renew that controversy by altering the creed's wording “one in being with the Father” to “consubstantial with the Father.”)
In the year 330 Emperor Constantine moved the seat of his empire from Rome to Byzantium, renaming the city Constantinople. Living in the east, he came under the influence of Arianism.