Friday, October 3, 2008

Athanasius of Alexandria

It is not known where or when Athanasius was born, but it is sometime around AD 295 and was likely born in a small town along the Nile river. This is a good guess because he spoke Coptic and had a dark complexion like the Copts. He was also very short. At the council of Nicea his enemies called him "the black dwarf." Through out his life he was closely associated with Monasticism. Athanasius learned a rigid discipline from the monks that he applied to himself. He was so deliberate in his living that he earned the admiration of friends and the respect of many of his enemies. Athanasius was a great supporter of Nicene Orthodoxy and a theological giant. “Of all the opponents of Arianism, Athanasius was most to be feared. The reasons for this were not to be found in subtlety of logical argument, nor in elegance of style, nor even in political perspicacity. In all these areas, Athanasius could be bested by his opponents. His monastic discipline, his roots among the people, his fiery spirit, and his profound and unshakable conviction [are what] made him invincible.” (Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, p.174) He wrote many books about the Arian Controversy in defense of Nicean orthodoxy. Even when he was exiled he could not be kept silent. Upon his return to his position as bishop he was welcomed as a hero. Athanasius died in AD 373 without seeing the defeat of Arianism. However, he died optimistic that Arianism would be defeated in the end.

"The results of the incarnation of the Savior are such and so many, that anyone attempting to enumerate them should be compared to a person looking upon the vastness of the sea and attempting to count its waves."

- Athansius of Alexandria