The Arian View of Salvation

Just as I expected (and hoped), Gregg and Groh have elaborated the Arian view of salvation, which is pretty much what I was expecting  it to be based upon what they had said so far. Here is a long quote that summarizes nicely their proposed Arian view of salvation.

The Arian scheme of askesis proceeds from the axiomatic identification of Christ with creatures. Possible of attainment by other originate beings is his progress in wisdom, stature, and divine favor. As Christ was chosen and named “Son” because of the works he performed (works foreknown by God), so believers are adopted and perfected by following in the way of his obedience and moral excellence, his works done as a creature. The exemplar is not categorically other, “unlike us and like the Father’; hence the imitation envisioned is straightforward and strictly possible. The reason Arian Christians can assert, “we too are able to become sons of God, just as (ὥσπερ) [Christ],” is unambiguous: Christ’s election as a reward for his discipline, for his perseverance in the good by choice, is within the reach of fellow creatures. Athanasius protests his opponents’ insolent claim to be Christ’s equal, and in the process describes their position exactly:

There will be no difference between him and those who receive the name [that is, of “son”] after their actions (πράξεις), as this is the ground upon which he also has been declared to be Son.

Within this soteriological plan the word χάρις carries a distinctive meaning. In contrast to orthodoxy’s substantialist concept of grace as something “stored” in and dispensed from divine nature, Arianism attaches connotations of volition and transaction to the term. For Arius both Christ and creatures possess sonship “by grace,” and both can be said to have grace only derivatively–by attribution rather than by nature. It is the same thing to say that the savior is Son “by adoption,” “by participation,” and “by grace.” Although the election of the Son is a gracious act of God in the sense that divine initiative is involved, this “certain one” is named “Son” because his virtuous conduct merits the appellation. His grace, like his glory, though bestowed by God, is won by his own consistent choice of the good. Likewise, as Arian believers aspired to fulfill their adopted sonship in emulation of “the pioneer and perfecter of their faith,” they attained grace through moral diligence and discipline. When in De Decretis 9 Athanasius describes the sonship of the Arian Christ by saying that the “name was by grace united to him…for his virtue’s sake,” he also describes the dynamic which Arians see at work in the believers’ progress toward God, and the foundation for their idea of askesis. Perfected sonship consists in doing the works and enduring the testings accomplished first by the one Arius called “the perfect creature of God.”

-Robert C. Gregg and Dennis E. Groh, Early Arianism– A View of Salvation (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), 144–145.

With that said, I must also make a correction to what was said in the previous post. I still think the essentialist language could explain Augustine’s understanding of impartation, but it probably wasn’t fair to suggest that imputation alone leads to Arianism. I suppose the question should be more along the lines of sanctification since those who push imputation do so with a clear distinction between justification and sanctification in mind.

Does viewing sanctification in merely moral terms lead to Arianism? Do Protestant views of sanctification have any room for an essential change in human nature? I suppose I ask this because I never reflected on that specific dynamic of sanctification before and now that I do, I think I had always thought of sanctification as an empowerment (not a change, even though language of change was used) to live a righteous life. God never changed my nature (since I had Christ’s righteousness imputed to my account which never touched my actual nature), he only changed my mind. How much of that attitude is prevalent in American Christianity and how much of it derives from the development of  secular psychology?


One thought on “The Arian View of Salvation

  1. Pingback: The Rationale of Arianism | A Word About Words

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