Third possible essay question for tomorrow's final (Please God, don't let me fail!): What was the Arian heresy and what weakness in the second or third century paved a way for it.
Arianism ultimately taught that the three persons of the Trinity were wholly unlike each other both in essence and in glory. (Eunomianism) The is the logical conclusion following from an earlier version of Arianism which taught that the Son was a creature of God, not eternal with the Father, and not divine. He was created ex-nihilo, (out of nothing) and "there was a time when he was not." He was "God," but not a true God.
It has been said that Arianism is the worst heresy to ever plague the Church. It took 600 years for the Church to be finally rid of it!
St. Athanasius was exiled five times for fighting this heresy and it seemed as though Arianism would win the battle. Some Sees had one orthodox bishop among many Arian bishops. This history should compel schismatics to realize that it is the Church (not the Bible--first, it wasn't in existence as such and second, Arians like heretics today can use the Bible to "prove" their belief) which has preserved orthodox belief through the ages, not the least of which the most foundational belief in the Christian Faith-the Holy Trinity.
It can be argued that St. Justin Martyr's understanding of the Son is what "paved the way" to the Arian heresy. He mixed up the concept of the Word versus the spoken Word of God. He taught that the second person of the Trinity is co-eternal with the Father qua Word, but became Son through the spoken word at creation. Thus, the Word is co-eternal, but the Word as Son is not, only pre-creation since it was through the Son that all things came into being.
He was not an Arian, but had bad theology. The second person is eternally both Word and Son.
Tertullian later said, "the Word becomes Son when spoken at creation." He makes the same mistake that St. Justin makes.
Novatian also contributes to the confusion with his words, "From Him, when he willed it, the Word was born." Arius quotes this directly in defending his heresy. This implies that the Father had the Son by choice and in His utterance of the "Word," He began the creation of the world. Arius believed that Jesus was "God-like," in that He was able to create, but not a true God in that He was created or born of the Father.
St. Hippolytus of Rome uses clearer language than that of St. Justin Martyr, but it still was not good theology as he writes, "For when He was without flesh and as yet by Himself, the Word was not yet perfect Son, although He was already perfect Word, the Only-begotten."