Arius. 260- 336. A.D.
Born in Libya or Alexandria. Presbyter (elder, like Jewish elders in the Old Testament) of the church in Alexandria. Bishop Alexander placed him on the highest level of the local clergy and gave him pastoral responsibility for Baucalis, a populated district near the harbour. He made a loud protest in the middle of one of the bishop’s sermons, because the later had stressed the equal eternity of the Father and the Son. (At the time this meant that Jesus had always existed: it didn’t relate to future eternity. A local Synod of about 100 bishops and priests, excluded Arius and his followers from communion (probably in 318 or 319). The Arian thesis, rejected by the local clergy was that: the Son is not eternal, nor equal to the Father, he is created as the principle of all things; his divine titles took their full value only after the completion of the Father’s will (for him) of salvation on earth. Arius unlike bishop Alexander rejected the belief that Jesus had always existed, a view intrinsic to a belief in the trinity. Theophilus of Antioch (second century) was the first Christian to use the word “trias”: his triad was God, his Word and his Wisdom. Arius saw that “the Word” in this case, the mission of salvation of Jesus, would have preceded his earthly birth. At least one conclusion may be drawn with confidence from the very limited records available: that according to Arius, Jesus was not the equal of God and that therefore the concept of the trinity was not valid. Arius was supported by Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia who built up a coalition of eastern bishops which sought the readmission of Arius to the ranks of the clergy. The dispute coincided with a civil war between Licinius ruler of the eastern Roman Empire and Constantine ruler of the western empire, who was finally successful in the autumn of 324. The new Emperor Constantine, anxious to bind the empire together, called an imperial synod of 250 bishops, the following spring at Nicaea, near Nicomedia in modern Turkey. The one eyed Arius, his other had been gauged out by Roman persecutors, appeared as a wild unfriendly figure. The Council, the first “ecumenical council”, confirmed the condemnation of Arius and promulgated the Nicene Creed in 325 AD. “One in substance with the Father” was one of several anti- Arian phrases then introduced. Arius himself was rehabilitated by the eastern bishops at the Synod of Tyre in 335. He was about to be reintegrated into the Alexandrian clergy, by Constantine, when he died in 336. Arius wrote a pamphlet to explain his views, but it doesn’t seem to be available. Probably it was destroyed as were countless other Arian materials in the aftermath of Nicaea.
Laelius Socinus 1525-62 Faustus Socinius 1539-1604
Uncle and nephew: founded and led a form of Unitarian Church in Poland, though they never used the word “Unitarian” The Racovian Catechism published at Racow in 1605, represents their views. Jesus is saviour by his teachings and exemplary life, who was raised at his resurrection to divine power. Faith in God and Christ is essential for salvation. God gave him all power over the church in heaven and on earth. God is known by revelation to be found in scripture and not through reason. Only the righteous will be resurrected: sinners will suffer eternal extinction.
Whereas Arians saw Jesus as having been born a common man, who on the fulfilment of his mission of salvation, was raised to a higher status. Socinians believed that though by nature a man, even from his earliest origin, Jesus was the only begotten Son of God, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. Jesus is to be worshipped. John Biddle translated the Racovian Catechism into English in 1650. He is sometimes called “The Father of English Unitarianism” though it would be hard to justify this title. Certainly the Rev. Noah Jones was an Arian, and, it is reasonable to assume, so were the majority of his congregation.
One last name, the Sabellians, who regarded God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost as different manifestations of the divine.