One of my very favorite figures from all of church history is the 4th century Patriarch of Alexandria, Athanasius. Back when I had a column in the monthly magazine of the Moravian Church, I called it “The Annals of Athanasius.” When I took up writing a blog I called Ecumenical Insanity, I wrote under the pseudonym of Athanasius. The archbishop of the great Egyptian city is a hero to anyone who values orthodoxy and recognizes the need to fight for it when it is under attack in the church catholic.
Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy has a piece in Touchstone about the great saint entitled “Contra Mundum Redux,” and I recommend it for your perusal. A couple of highlights:
One of my favorite descriptions of Athanasius comes from Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,which devoted several chapters to the Arian controversy. No fan of Christianity, Gibbon nonetheless lavished his admiration on the zealous bishop of Alexandria who nearly single-handedly championed theological orthodoxy when it seemed all of Christendom was succumbing to Arius’s alternative brand of religion….
Athanasius was expelled from his throne five times and spent 20 years as an exile or a fugitive. Yet almost every province of the Roman empire was “successively witness to his merit, and his sufferings in the cause of the Homoousion [the doctrine of Christ’s co-substantiality with the Father], which he considered as the sole pleasure and business, as the duty, and as the glory, of his life.” …
Whether from his bishop’s throne or from an obscure hiding place, Athanasius never compromised on the essentials or fell silent, his writings penetrating the far reaches of the empire even when the bishop himself was elusive. Although Arianism would endure beyond the life of Athanasius, its ultimate defeat within Christendom was achieved only because of his witness and exertions, operating under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whose full deity, along with that of the Son and of the Father, was the unfailing guidepost to the ostracized but never despairing bishop.
Tooley offers thirteen “attributes” of Athanasius for emulation in the modern-day fight against heresy and apostasy, along with a concluding lesson. It’s a needed reminder of what’s needed in church leaders today. Joe Bob says check it out.