For a lot of folks the name Athanasius may not ring a bell. But we Christians owe the man a great deal. In the early centuries of the Church, a fellow named Arius, along with others, introduced the false teaching that Christ was “like” God, but not “the same as” God, that is, one equal Being with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Souls were confused and deceived.
Into the midst of this controversy God placed “the father of orthodoxy,” a man of unbending will, strong faith and penetrating Scriptural insight – Athanasius.
He made it is his mission to fight the “Arian” heresy, to set forth clearly the Scriptural teaching about the Triune (“Three-in-One”) God and the two natures in Christ, the God-Man. The saying in the Latin language of those days was: Athanasius contra mundum et mundus contra Athanasium,” that is, “Athanasius against the world and the world against Athanasius.” Athanasius knew how to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints [the believers]” (Jude 3).
The crowning glory of his life was his defense of the faith at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 and the resulting Nicene Creed, finalized at Constantinople in A.D. 381 (page 18 in the hymnal) which clearly confesses the Triune (Three-in-One) nature of God and the two natures in Jesus Christ, the God-Man. Years later, these timeless truths were confessed in even greater detail in the creed named in his honor – The Athanasian Creed.
We live in days not so much different from those of Athanasius. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons still peddle their anti-Trinitarian falsehoods from door to door. Many main-line “Christian” denominations have sold out and join in prayer with Muslims, Hindus and Jews. The Masonic and other “lodges” plainly identify what goes on in their “temples” as a “religion” which prays to “the nameless one of a hundred names.” Otherwise useful organizations, such as the scouting movement, talk of “duty to God” without identifying who that “god” is, and base their relationship to this “god” on “doing a good turn” and keeping “the scout law” instead of faith in Christ only.
Athanasius did not invent the doctrine of the Trinity. The triune nature of God is clearly revealed in both the Old and New Testaments. In a world which invents gods in its own image, maintaining that all gods are the same, we thank God that He has preserved to us the timeless truth of God the Father who has created us, God the Son who has redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit who has sanctifies us. One, true, triune God now and forever!