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Terms Pertaining to the Debate over Arianism

homoios
This word means "same". In essence this is the modalistic position, that the three persons are really the same under different modes. It claimed that all three persons were the same essence, or person. Few theologians held this position.

anamoios
This was the radical Arian position. Few theologians proclaimed this point of view. This held that the three persons of the Trinity were totally different and shared nothing in common.

homoiousion
The classical expression of Arianism, this position was condemned at the Council of Nicea. Homoiousion means that the three persons of the Trinity were similar in substance (but not the same).

homoousion
This is the orthodox position which was adopted by the Church to describe the relationship of the persons of the Trinity. It means of the "same substance" or of "one substance" (with the Father). This word is not biblical which is why some objected to its use. Since it was used by some of those accused of Modalism, detractors of the orthodox position aruged that it was heretical. Nevertheless, the term homoousion was adopted at the Council of Nicea and it has come to us through the Creed associated with this Council. Two of these words are almost alike:
homoousion
homoiousion
Only one letter differentiates the word, the "i", (In Greek the letter "i" is called iota) which is what led wags to say that the whole discussion which split the Christian world was over one iota.

The Arian position, which was expressed by homoiousion as a compromise, really argued that there was a complete difference between the three persons of the Trinity and that they were related only in a hierarchy so that God the Father was the true God, that the Son was a lesser figure, one which was between humanity and God and that the Holy Spirit was subordinate to the Son. The Arian position is usually described as "subordinationism".

God the Father

\ /

God The Son (lesser than the Father)

\ /

God the Holy Spirit

The arguments posed by Arius have never completely left us. The insistence in the western Church to include the filioque clause in the Creed is a remnant of this debate. When we say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the son we remind ourselves of the co-inherence of the persons of the Trinity, thereby rejecting any possibility of Arianism

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Copyright Edward de Bary, 1996
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