A short young man with thin red hair found a seat in the spacious lecture hall. Though an unlikely-looking fellow, Athanasius’ eyes watched the stage with all seriousness. Others crowded in around him until there was no room left. It seemed as if the whole city had come out for the special debate! Indeed, at this time in the early 300s, the city of Alexandria was intensely interested in all things religious, even to the point of violence. And the question today was of utmost importance—who is Jesus?
The crowd grew quiet. Athanasius sat on the edge of his seat. There on the stage was his close friend and teacher, Archbishop Alexander. At seventy-five years of age, Alexander was an old man, yet his mind was clear and sharp. His opponent was guilty of heresy and Alexander needed to prove it. He quoted from the lies and false teachings of this man.
Finally it was the turn of the accused priest to speak. Arius stood tall and thin wearing a simple black cloak, hair down to his shoulders, and a red scarf around his neck. He knew how to enthrall a crowd. He knew what he had to do now. He accused Alexander himself.
But Alexander knew what to do as well. He asked Arius exactly what he believed.
“Do you believe the Son is not eternal?”
“Do you believe the Son cannot know the Father perfectly?”
Athanasius studied the man who so answered. Even the crowd was amazed. Arius was saying that Jesus was not really God! Surely he was a heretic. Surely he deserved to be disciplined. But he was a very popular priest. There could be riots. It was a very difficult situation.
What would his beloved Archbishop do?
(to be continued)