Saint Athanasius of Alexandria was born in c. 296 A.D. and died in 373 A.D. He was called a “Doctor of the Church” and is considered one of the greatest theologians in the Christian faith. His christological teaching helped to form our understanding of the trinity we hold today. He was from Alexandria in Egypt. You can download his writings at the bottom of this article.
Athanasius was not always favored by the Roman emperors, in fact, he was exiled 5 times by four different emperors. He is well know for his defense of the Orthodox faith against Arius who started the Arian teaching of Christianity. Arius was not a trinitarian and believed Christ was not God. Arian teachings can be found today in the modern Jehovah witness religion.
Athanasius and the trinity
Athanasius taught emphatically that Christ was One with the Father as the Bible teaches saying “I and the Father are one.” (Joh 10:30 NAS).
He showed from scripture that Christ, the Son of God, is fully God and one with the Father.
Accordingly when the Father is called the only God, and we read that there is one God, and ‘I am,’ and ‘beside Me there is no God,’ and ‘I the first and I the last,’ this has a fit meaning. For God is One and Only and First; but this is not said to the denial of the Son, perish the thought; for He is in that One, and First and Only, as being of that One and Only and First the Only Word and Wisdom and Radiance. And He too is the First, as the Fulness of the Godhead of the First and Only, being whole and full God.
Athanasius Oriations Contra Arianos – Four Discourses against the Arians – Discourse III. 6.
He never shrunk back from his opposition. There was nobody who opposed God’s truth that Athanasius did not call to the floor publicly.
But let the other heresies and the Manichees also know that the Father of the Christ is One, and is Lord and Maker of the creation through His proper Word. And let the Ario-maniacs know in particular, that the Word of God is One, being the only Son proper and genuine from His Essence, and having with His Father the oneness of Godhead indivisible, as we said many times, being taught it by the Saviour Himself.
Four Discourses against the Arians – Four Discourses against the Arians – Discourse II 41.
The trinity doctrine was precisely taught by Athanasius. Athanasius said,
Trinity, yet that God is beyond number, and that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, though eternally distinct from each other, can scarcely be viewed together in common, except as ‘One’ substance, as if they could not be generalized into Three Any whatever; and as if it were, strictly speaking, incorrect to speak of ‘a’ Person, or otherwise than of ‘the’ Person, whether of Father, or of Son, or of Spirit. The question has almost been admitted by S. Austin, whether it is not possible to say that God is ‘One’ Person (Trin. vii. 8), for He is wholly and entirely Father, and at the same time wholly and entirely Son, and wholly and entirely Holy Ghost.
Four Discourses against the Arians – Four Discourses against the Arians – Discourse III 9.
The same trinitarian language is found in the Nicene creed. He also made it very clear that Christians do not teach that there are three gods.
For divine Scripture wishing us thus to understand the matter, has given such illustrations, as we have said above, from which we are able both to press the traitorous Jews, and to refute the allegation of Gentiles who maintain and think, on account of the Trinity, that we profess many gods.
Athanasius Oriations Contra Arianos – Four Discourses against the Arians – Discourse III. 15.
Athanasius Against Arianism
Athanasius defended the faith vehemently. I admit, some of the things he would say about the Arians was quite hilarious. I definitely added some of his word usage to my vocabulary. He said,
Of all other heresies which have departed from the truth it is acknowledged that they have but devised a madness, and their irreligiousness has long since become notorious to all men.
Athanasius Oriations Contra Arianos – Four Discourses against the Arians – Discourse I. 1.
He talks about Arius’ tone of voice and mannerisms.
For of the one has Arius imitated the dissolute and effeminate tone, in writing Thaliæ on his model; and the other he has rivalled in her dance, reeling and frolicking in his blasphemies against the Saviour; till the victims of his heresy lose their wits and go foolish, and change the Name of the Lord of glory into the likeness of the ‘image of corruptible man,’ and for Christians come to be called Arians, bearing this badge of their irreligion.
Athanasius Oriations Contra Arianos – Four Discourses against the Arians – Discourse I. 2.
Download Saint Athanasius’s Books for Free
His most popular works are “the Incarnation of the Word” and “the Four Discourses Against the Arians” You can download them for free below.