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Arius: Heresy and Tradition Paperback – January 24, 2002

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About the Author

Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, has also served as the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, the Bishop of Monmouth, and the Archbishop of Wales. A Fellow of the British Academy, Archbishop Williams has written a number of books on the history of theology and spirituality and has published collections of articles and sermons, as well as two books of poetry.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; Revised edition (January 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802849695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802849694
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rowan Douglas Williams was born in Swansea, south Wales on 14 June 1950, into a Welsh-speaking family, and was educated at Dynevor School in Swansea and Christ's College Cambridge where he studied theology. He studied for his doctorate - in the theology of Vladimir Lossky, a leading figure in Russian twentieth-century religious thought - at Wadham College Oxford, taking his DPhil in 1975. After two years as a lecturer at the College of the Resurrection, near Leeds, he was ordained deacon in Ely Cathedral before returning to Cambridge.

From 1977, he spent nine years in academic and parish work in Cambridge: first at Westcott House, being ordained priest in 1978, and from 1980 as curate at St George's, Chesterton. In 1983 he was appointed as a lecturer in Divinity in the university, and the following year became dean and chaplain of Clare College. 1986 saw a return to Oxford now as Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church; he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1989, and became a fellow of the British Academy in 1990. He is also an accomplished poet and translator.

In 1991 Professor Williams accepted election and consecration as bishop of Monmouth, a diocese on the Welsh borders, and in 1999 on the retirement of Archbishop Alwyn Rice Jones he was elected Archbishop of Wales, one of the 38 primates of the Anglican Communion. Thus it was that, in July 2002, with eleven years experience as a diocesan bishop and three as a leading primate in the Communion, Archbishop Williams was confirmed on 2 December 2002 as the 104th bishop of the See of Canterbury: the first Welsh successor to St Augustine of Canterbury and the first since the mid-thirteenth century to be appointed from beyond the English Church.

Dr Williams is acknowledged internationally as an outstanding theological writer, scholar and teacher. He has been involved in many theological, ecumenical and educational commissions. He has written extensively across a very wide range of related fields of professional study - philosophy, theology (especially early and patristic Christianity), spirituality and religious aesthetics - as evidenced by his bibliography. He has also written throughout his career on moral, ethical and social topics and, since becoming archbishop, has turned his attention increasingly on contemporary cultural and interfaith issues.

As Archbishop of Canterbury his principal responsibilities are however pastoral - leading the life and witness of the Church of England in general and his own diocese in particular by his teaching and oversight, and promoting and guiding the communion of the world-wide Anglican Church by the globally recognized ministry of unity that attaches to the office of bishop of the see of Canterbury.

His interests include music, fiction and languages.

In 1981 Dr Williams married Jane Paul, a lecturer in theology, whom he met while living and working in Cambridge. They have a daughter and a son.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The first edition of 'Arius: Heresy & Tradition' was written by Rowan Williams, currently Archbishop of Canterbury, while he was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. Written in the 1980s, it was revised and reissued in 2001 because it had fallen out of print, but remained (and remains) a standard work in the field.

Arianism is, historically speaking, one of the major heresies of the ancient church. It has remained an attractive tendency in theologians ever since the time of Arius in the third and fourth centuries. In brief, the heresy of Arius was that Jesus as the Son of God was not co-eternal of God the Father, that the Father and the Son were not of the same substance (ousia), and that Jesus was a created being. These issues are all addressed contra Arius in the Nicene Creed, which has as part of its construction 'of one being with the Father', 'begotten, not made', and other constructions intentionally directed against Arianism.

Williams' thesis, however, presents a different pictrue from that of the typical 'heretic'. Arius, according to Williams, was in fact a theological conservative wrongly portrayed as a rebel. Williams' first chapter traces images of Arianism in scholarship, from the early John Henry Newman in the 1830s through Harnack, Gwatkin, Elliger, and later scholars too numerous to mention - 'The post-war period has been astonishingly fertile in Arius scholarship,' Williams writes. This has ceased to be as polemical and has become more analytical in nature, 'though the shadow of Arianism-as-Other still haunts modern discussion.'

This is both an historical and a theological text. Theology is not divorced from history or the context in which it is formed. 'Orthodoxy continues to be made,' Williams states.
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Rowan Willliams, currently the Archbishop of Canterbury, provides a detailed examination of one of the major docternal disputes of the early Church. As such, it may be a bit much for those not familiar with (a) the history of the ancient Church, or (b) Scripture. With that said, I was very impressed with the way in which Williams outlined, explained and provided the historical as well as philosophical underpinnings of the controversey.

To broadly summarize, the controversy was about the nature of Jesus: One group fo early Christians held that his is nature divine; Arius (and others, primarily from Alexandria and North Africa) believed that only God was divine, and that therefore Jesus' nature was human, and there was a time when Jesus (since he is human) did not exist. The controversey was ultimately resolved through the Council of Nicea (hence the "Nicene Creed" Christians recite during their services), and Arius was proclaimed a heretic.

The greatest challenge I had was following the historical background to the controversey - I simply didn't have the historical fluency to follow the divisions and politicing with Christendom at the time. Once Williams began to explain the controversy in detail, however, things began to fall into place, and (with some looking up of specific passages of Scripture) I was able to understand the basis of Arius' position.

I recommend the book, but with some reservations - Williams, apparently is writing for fellow theologians or historians of the early Church. For this audience, I highly recommend it. For the general historian (such as myself), it certainly provided much useful insight and detail into a critical matter of theological interpretation - in which case I do recommend. For the lay reader, however, it may be a bit "technical."
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Arianism is historically regarded the "archetypal heresy" in the Christian tradition. Arius, a theologian and priest of Alexandria denied the full deity and the eternal existence of the Son of God . He taught that the Son, while being divine does not share the same substance (homoousios) with God the Father. Thus, the Word or Son was created by the Father as the agent through whom he created the universe. Arius said of the Son, "There was (a time) when He was not." In Arius: Heresy & Tradition, Williams forcefully argued that Arius presented both a conservative theology and a conservative understanding of his presbyteral role vis-à-vis the bishop (233); contrary to what is traditionally portrayed of him. He insisted that Arius' hermeneutics aimed at developing a biblically-based and rationally consistent Christian theology (111). Arius was a committed theological conservative, stressed the author.

Williams has done a great service to the scholarly community; by providing an alternate way to reevaluate our thoughts on Arius. Although, I do not embrace his view, but I feel that his arguments are compelling and well presented.
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Now in a newly revised edition with an updated appendix, Arius: Heresy & Tradition by Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Wales) is a thoughtful, scholarly discussion of Arianism, which has been labeled "archetypal Christian heresy" because it denies the traditional views of Christ's divinity. This is a scholarly but highly accessible study of Arius himself, presenting him as a theological conservative who sought to unite the Bible's teachings with philosophical ideals outside the norm. A welcome and highly recommended contribution to religious studies shelves, Arius: Heresy & Tradition is also a fascinating review of the very definition of heresy.
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