Arians, under every bed

One of the faults of the gentleman who writes these Idleposts might be described as “mental slippage” — a phenomenon that leaves him absent from the place he should mentally be. Indeed, “Mister Worn” wrote knowingly himself about “absent mindedness,” when he was younger: that it is the result not of acting without thinking, but of attempting the simplest tasks through cluttering and distracting conscious thought. (They are meant to be done unconsciously.) This author’s condition was somewhat aggravated by the stroke that turned him not quite into a vegetable, three years ago. (My friends insist charitably that I’m now “ninety-six percent,” so I shouldn’t claim to be more than twenty-four parts “a greenie” in every twenty-five.)

Example: when making my little mention of Athanasius, Thursday, I entirely forgot the point I was going to make about him on his feast day. He was, as I did mention, the scourge of the Arian heretics, but more, he is our contemporary. Now, this is not often said of an Ante-Nicene Father, but Athanasius was too large to fit entirely into the IVth century. He grasps the whole point of Arianism and, as it were, runs with it.

Arius taught that Christ was not Very God, not the Godhead of the Word, but just a man, only higher in grace than most, if not all, others. He was saying just what sympathetic non-Christians say today, that Jesus was, memorably, very good. We should try to emulate Him, they sort-of believe. In other words, we may “honour” him, even though he is absolutely bonkers, and a liar, and a fraud, who could not have risen from the dead. This is the immortal heresy, of the perpetually modern.

For if Christ was not God, He was instead rather silly, and we should be doing whatever most appeals. We, thanks to evolution and democracy, may distinguish right from wrong. This is the Arian principle on which every moderate liberal lives today — while saying nice, cluttering things about Our Saviour.