LISTEN: Athanasius of Alexandria, Part 7: Further Trials (The History of Christianity Podcast #132)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #132, titled, “Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US] of Alexandria (Part 7): Further Trials”

Our Scripture for today is Psalm 68:4-5 which reads: “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name Jah, and rejoice before him. A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Dr. Don Sweeting. He said: “Church history is one of the most helpful studies in the preparation of Christian ministers. It gets us beyond our natural shortsightedness, faddishness and pride. It becomes a source of warning, wisdom and encouragement. It provides spiritual sparks to awaken us and lift our eyes so that we might have renewed hope.  And it gets us beyond our own American evangelical amnesia.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US] of Alexandria (Part 7)” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1). This section is titled, “Further Trials”.

Although Julian did not wish to persecute Christians, the news that arrived from Alexandria disturbed him. His efforts to restore paganism were met with the staunch resistance of Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US], who by now had become a popular hero. If imperial policy were to succeed in Alexandria, it was necessary to exile its bishop once again. It soon became clear to Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US] that Julian wanted to remove him not only from Alexandria, but also from Egypt. Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US] knew that he could not remain in the city, where there was no place to hide, and therefore resolved to seek refuge once again among the monks.

Aware that Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US] was planning to hide in the desert, the imperial authorities sought to arrest him. According to some biographers, Athanasius was being carried up the Nile River on a ship. “Have you seen Athanasius?” shouted some soldiers from a faster ship overtaking his. “Yes,” Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US] answered quite truthfully. “He is just ahead of you, and if you hurry you shall overtake him.” Soon the other ship was lost ahead of Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US].

As we have seen, Julian’s reign did not last long. He was succeeded by Jovian, who was an admirer of Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US]. Once again, the bishop of Alexandria returned from exile, although he was soon called to Antioch to counsel the emperor. When he finally returned to Alexandria, it seemed that his long chain of exiles had come to an end.

But Jovian died in a few months and was succeeded by Valens, a staunch defender of Arianism. Fearing that the emperor would take measures against the orthodox in Alexandria if he remained in the city, Athanasius resolved to leave once again. It soon became evident, however, that Valens was not eager to tangle with the bishop who had bested both Constantius [CON-STAN-TEE-US] and Julian. Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US] was thus able to return to Alexandria, where he remained until death claimed him in 373 AD.

Although Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US] never saw the final victory in the cause to which he devoted his life, his writings clearly show that he was convinced that, in the end, Arianism would be defeated. As he approached old age, he saw emerge around himself a new generation of theologians devoted to the same cause. Most remarkable among these were the Great Cappadocians [KAP-PUH-DO-SHNZ], to whom we now turn our attention.

Next time, we will look at “The Great Cappadocians [KAP-PUH-DO-SHNZ]” (Part 1).

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.