English Works of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (1469-1535): Sermons and Other Writings, 1520-1535

By John Fisher; Cecilia A. Hatt | Go to book overview

Appendix 1: Heresies, Doctrinal Controversies, and Church Councils
Arianism. Arius was born in Libya in the second half of the third century. His teaching (circulated in Alexandria from c. 320), denied the co-eternity, consubstantiality with the Father, and hence the divinity, of Christ. The Trinity, according to Arius, was a descending triad, and the Son is God only by participation or adoption. This doctrine effectively divided the Eastern Church and for many years it was the official doctrine of certain dioceses, which had rival Arian and orthodox bishops. The Emperor Constantine I attempted to reconcile the two sides, but with little success. It was the Council of Nicaea (ad 325) which produced the definitive refutation of the heresy with the Nicene Creed, containing the word homoousios: 'of one substance' [with the Father] (see Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, 219-48). After the condemnation at Nicaea, the anti-Nicene reaction, which involved a number of Eastern bishops, concentrated on the deposition of the various teachers influential in formulating the Creed. Athanasius was excommunicated by Antioch (but not by Rome) and eventually driven into the desert, the Western bishops who refused to concur in his condemnation were exiled and the Arians left holding the field, but in trying to define a creed of their own they fell out amongst themselves. After the death of Valens (ad 378), orthodoxy was reimposed in the decrees of ad 380 and 381; the Arians were deprived of their offices and churches.
Arius, see Arianism
Carlstadt (c. 1480-1541) disputed with Eck, and took the most extreme line of the Reformers on Eucharistic theory. In 1521 he celebrated the first wholly Protestant communion service, without vestments or canon, and in his 1525 exposition of the words Hoc est enim corpus meum denied that the physical presence of Christ in the bread can be deduced from Scripture. He argued that this, which is neuter, cannot agree with bread, which is masculine, and that therefore Christ must have pointed to his own body when he said this. Oecolampadius (q.v.) derided this line of argument:

. . . quod Carolstadio revelatum, qui τουτο refert ad corpus. Sed ubi manet sacramenti ratio? Et quare in poculo etiam non dicitur: Hic sanguis est sanguis meus, sed: Hic est calix sanguinis. Vnde necessarium, ut et tropus assumatur, longe alienior a scriptura hoc nostro, quem non esse indignum Christo, nec absurdum, quomodo interpretatio vestra non est tolerabilis edocebimus. (De Genuina Verborum Domini . . . Expositione, sig. C 3v.)

-412-

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