Ambrose of Milan and the End of the Nicene-Arian Conflicts

By Daniel H. Williams | Go to book overview

1
The Council of Ariminum and Homoian Supremacy

WHEN Ambrose of Milan wrote against his Arian opponents in the 370s and 380s, he was engaging a theological position which he believed could be clearly distinguished from his own pro-Nicene faith. These 'Arians', as they are described, adhered to the Ariminum creed wherein Christ was said to be a creature: 'God sent his son made (factum) of a woman, made under the law; therefore, they read "factum" in the same sense as "created" (creatum).'1

In reality, the creed nowhere asserts the creaturehood of the Son; instead, it declares that the Son is like (homoios) the Father who begat him as the Scriptures teach.2 But even if Ambrose slurred the beliefs of his opponents in order to demonstrate the implications of their heresy, he was quite correct in identifying the Ariminum creed as a confessional rallying point for the majority of western anti-Nicenes. As an alternative to the theology of consubstantiality and its interpreters, the Ariminum creed was accepted as an authoritative doctrinal standard by such leading bishops as Auxentius of Milan, Palladius of Ratiaria, and the renowned missionary to the Goths, Ulfila. Its fundamental place in Latin-speaking Arianism was perhaps best revealed when that same creed was named in a law issued by the government of Valentinian II in 386 as a counter- standard of faith to the Nicene creed.3 It is evident then that Ambrose, like other pro-Nicenes of his day, was opposing a recognizable platform of theology that was central to the identity of the Homoian Church.

This situation differs quite noticeably from that which characterized Nicene and anti-Nicene opposition during the 330s, 340s, and most of the 350s. In these earlier decades, the issues of contention were much more canonical-ecclesiastical than theological, involving a conflict of

____________________
1
Contra Auxentium, 25 (= Ep. LXXVa) ( CSEL lxxxii. 3. 98. 297-8).
2
As preserved in Theodoret, HE 11. 21.3-7 ( GCS xliv. 145-6). This is the Niké creed which was brought back to the council of Ariminum and adopted by the assembly. Cf. the letter sent to Constantius by the pro-Homoians at Ariminum. CAP A VI ( CSEL lxv. 87-8).
3
C. Th. XVI. 1. 4. See Ch. 7 for details.

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