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Christian heresy that declared that Christ is not truly divine but a created being. According to the Alexandrian presbyter Arius (4th century), God alone is immutable and self-existent, and the Son is not God but a creature with a beginning. The Council of Nicaea (AD 325) condemned Arius and declared the Son to be of one substance with the father. Arianism had numerous defenders for the next 50 years but eventually collapsed when the Christian emperors of Rome Gratian and Theodosius assumed power. The First Council of Constantinople (381) approved the Nicene Creed and proscribed Arianism. The heresy continued among the Germanic tribes through the 7th century, and similar beliefs are held in the present day by the Jehovah's Witnesses and by some adherents of Unitarianism.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Arianism, visit Britannica.com.