Aquinas and Christology

Thomas Aquinas is known as one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the church.  He was a prolific writer, and writings are still widely read today.  When it comes to Christology Aquinas had a lot to say, and his writings on Christology can be read in the third part of his Summa Theologica and his Commentary on Matthew (Lecture Notes).

His view on the incarnation was different because he assumed its necessity was hypothetical.  This does not mean that it was a theory and that it did not happen, but it was only a necessity if it was something that God had planned from the beginning.  Like Anselm and many others before him, Aquinas believed that nothing can coerce God.  In simpler terms, did God only ordain the incarnation as a result of the fall?  Or was the incarnation already put in place because God knew the fall would take place?

Through the fall man became separated from God, but through the incarnation this was remedied.  It was remedied because God sought to unite humanity to himself.  Though dawning a human body was below God, he loved us so much that Christ did it so we may be united with him.  Aquinas delves into two kinds of necessity.  The first necessity in one in which there is no way we can achieve the end.  Thee is nothing, as humans, that we can do to satisfy the due penalty for sin.  This is not possible because original sin has corrupted our very nature.  The second necessity spoken of is that of man being sufficient because of the actions of another.  In this case it is Christ who sustains us.

Aquinas goes on to say much more about the incarnation is section three of the Summa.  He answers the question of whether the incarnation should have happened at the beginning of time, or at the end.  His answer is masterful, but simple at the same time.  He quotes scripture to say that in the fullness of time Christ came to save sinners.  If this happened at the beginning of the world there would have been no sinners as the fall had not taken place.  If it happened at the end of the world then it would have been to late for those sinners scripture says he came to save.

In conclusion Aquinas takes the best of those before him to assist in his Christology.  He is very proud to quote from Augustine, Anselm, John Chrysostom, and many others in support of his position.  His affirmed the necessity of the Hypostatic union and thinks that it is necessary for one to believe.  The unity of man and God was the work of the incarnation.  In the incarnation we find the love and forgiveness of God.  It was the decision of God, long before time began, that the suffering of Christ would be the material element of his love for humanity.

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Patristic Theories of Redemption

The fathers of the early church fought very hard to preserve orthodox teaching regarding the person of Christ.  There were numerous assaults on his divinity and nature, and the Council of Chalcedon seemed to put the issue to rest for good.  The teaching that Jesus Christ, was eternal, always existed, is fully divine, and fully human was now put to rest.  Though this was crucial part in the Christological story, it was not complete.  The Church fathers wrestled with various theories regarding Christ.  These theories did not deal with who Jesus was, but dealt with what he did to redeem us.  In this paper, three patristic will be discussed along with what is common among them.

One of the redemptive theories discussed in the Patristic period was the Pedagogical or Christ-the-teacher theory of salvation.  This theory teaches that Christ with a new knowledge, or law and demonstrated this with the example of his life.  The idea that Christ is our example is a theme throughout much of the New Testament.  There are many passages, but 1 Peter 2:21 specifically mentions that Christ is an example for us to follow.  That passage of scripture states, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps” (NRSV).  The concept of a new knowledge from God is also present outside of scripture in some of the earliest Christian writings.  Regarding this Joseph Mitros writes, Such expressions such as ‘Immortal knowledge’ ‘new knowledge’…recur quite often in the Didache, the First of Clement and the Shepherd of hermas” (Mitros 418).

Another theory set forth in the patristic era was known as the recapitulation theory.  This theory was made popular by St. Irenaeus, and taught that Christ rescued humanity by “recapitulating in himself the whole human race” (Mitros 416).  St Irenaeus found support for this theory in the writings of St. Paul.  One such passage from Paul is Romans 5:18-19 which states, “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.  For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (NRSV).  Since Adam was the cause of the fall, Christ came to live the life that Adam should have.  As a result, we are now redeemed and restored to the life we once had prior to Adam (Mitros 427).

A third theory that arose in the Patristic age is the transactional theory.  It is known better as the Christus Victor theory.  This theory claims that a ransom had be paid to Satan for the redemption of humanity.  The ransom was supposed to be part of a kind of contractual obligation between God and Satan.  There are no passages in scripture that speak of such a contract, but there was an understanding in the early church about the term slavery.  Humanity were slaves to Satan, and Christ died to redeem them.  In this regard Joseph Mitros states, “Now, the term of redemption, understood within the context of slavery, meant a liberation of a slave upon the payment of a ransom to the owner” (Mitros 422).  Gregory of Nyssa elaborated this view by introducing the concept of a fishing hook.  Just as in fishing, Satan clamped down on this hook (i.e. Christ), and found a surprise.  This surprise was the claims of all the souls taken from the devil.

There are many other theories that were developed and discussed during the Patristic era.  As has been seen, there is quite a range in belief and teaching.  However, there is one constant that stands out among them.  The redemption that is found in Christ and seeks to transform individual persons (Lecture Notes).  That is what the fathers sought to do in these various theories.

Works Cited

Mitros, Joseph. “Patristic Views of Christ’s Salvific Work,” Thought 42 (1967), 415-447.

Book Review: And He Dwelt Among Us

Introduction

Aiden Wilson Tozer is a name that we think of in Christian circles very often.  We know him as A.W. Tozer and so he has written many books such as The Pursuit of God and The Attributes of God and dozens more.  He came to faith at the age of seventeen, and was a self-taught theologian.  His writings and sermons were so highly regarded that some saw him as a 20th century prophet.  His works are timeless, and some today still consider him to be a prophet for the church (page 7).

In the book And He Dwelt Among Us Tozer ministers to us, not as a prophet, but as a caring pastor and leader.  Tozer wrote over forty books and was Pastor of Southside Alliance Church in Chicago, but he also pastored many others at various times.  As a successful author he received royalties from his work, but often gave the proceeds to those less fortunate than himself.  He was called to preach the difficult message of pursuing Christ at all costs.  The beloved pastor and writer went to his eternal reward in 1966 and is buried in Akron, Ohio.  The book is edited by James L. Snyder is Pastor of Family of God Fellowship in Ocala, Florida and is regarded as a leading authority on the life and ministry of A.W. Tozer.

The book is not the work that fans of Tozer have come to expect.  It is a collection of sermons that Tozer gave over the course of a year on the Gospel of John.  It is a treasure of spiritual insight that any Christian would be blessed by.

 

SUMMARY

And He Dwelt Among us consists of thirteen chapters that dwell on a passage from the Gospel of John.  The chapters can be further compiled into section such as chapters 1-3 deal with creation, chapters 4-6 with the incarnation, chapters 7-8 with application, and chapters 9-13 with contemplation. These passages are expounded upon in a masterful way and include exhortations on Christian Living, the incarnation, and the nature of God.  As stated in the introduction the book is a series of sermons over the course of a year by Tozer.  He embarked on this series of sermons as a cure for what he called spiritual boredom.  To Tozer spiritual boredom was “When Christians become addicted of the activity of the world around them to the exclusion of spiritual disciplines (Page 10).”  In his day, much like ours, people rested in the faith that they received and did not seek Christian maturity.  This work, edited by James L. Snyder, was Tozer at his best as he sought to erase this spiritual boredom.

 

ANALYSIS/CRITIQUE

In And He Dwelt Among Us Tozer takes the reader on a journey to better understand the Gospel of John.  In the first chapter he deals with John 1:1 and immediately references the wisdom books of the Old Testament.  To understand this passage one must know how it related to those before it.  Tozer states that some passages are hard to understand, but are really building blocks for future spiritual thought.  To Tozer John 1:1 is one such passage (Page 15).  This concept is carried over into chapter two where Tozer illustrated that Christ existed before time.

In Chapter three Tozer focuses on John 1:10 and Christ, the “Word”, is described as the cause of everything that is made.  Tozer uses the Greek word logos, and says that the world did not come into existence by itself (Page 46).”  The “Word” came to not only create the world, but create it in and orderly and beautiful fashion.

The most famous, and most widely used, passage of scripture is John 3:16.  Many pastors and theologians have discussed this verse in great detail, but Tozer is careful state that he has not done so.  He has such a high regard for this text that he compares it with Moses and the burning Bush.  In regards to this Tozer states, “This text should be approached as Moses approached the burning bush in his day.  It is a sacred confrontation with God (Page 107).”  He says that nothing compares with the twenty-five words in this text and illustrates a vital truth.  That truth is that God cares about each person that he sent his son.  It also exposes a great lie of Satan that is often used on believers.  That lie being that God has no concern for us (Page 110).

In Chapter eleven Tozer makes a case for the vicarious atonement.  Tozer describes the common objections, such as moral responsibility not being able to be transferred among persons, acknowledges it, and does the unthinkable.  Tozer not only acknowledges it, but says they are correct.  However, this is where Tozer is best because He describes what we become in Christ and ho there is nothing like it.  Speaking of this objection Tozer states that theologians have made a simple process immensely convoluted.   He describes the vicarious atonement as, “But in Jesus Christ himself, we became part of Him and He became part of us and took us up into himself so that in one sense, when He died, as Paul said, we all died (Page 181).”

Tozer concluded And He Dwelt Among Us by dwelling on John 14:7-11.  He states something profound as he says that a nation will only be as great as its religion, and no religion never rose above its concept of God (Page 203).  His conclusion to the listeners, and readers, is that they must have a relationship with Christ.  This is vital because one can only know God by knowing Christ.

And He Dwelt Among Us is a great work of sermons that have many strengths.  It is written in such a way that one does not need to be a seminary graduate to understand and apply its teachings.  The language is understandable to the new believer and average layperson.  One interesting strength in regards to its language is that is seems to surpass time.  These sermons were given earlier in the 20th century, and evolves over time.  Words that were used back then may not have the same meaning today, but this does not apply to And He Dwelt Among Us.  The language carries over and the meaning is the same today.

Another strength is the amount of scripture that is in the book.  The book has informative chapter titles, and the scripture passages let one know what will be discussed.  Tozer utilizes his skills in expository preaching and theology to draw his listeners and readers in.  He draws them by various means including history, natural theology, and typology to help his listeners, and readers, understand the text and apply it to their lives.

No matter how many strengths a work has there will also be a weakness.  Though the weaknesses are few they do exist and will be discussed.  One weakness found, at least for this modern reader, is Tozer’s use of Hymns and poetry intermingled with his sermon.  This is more of a cosmetic issue, and is one that is telling of modern times.  The modern reader may rush over them and see them as inconsequential.  However, this weakness is easily overlooked as these sermons were in the early 1900’s and were a part of preaching for many Pastors.  It was difficult process to find something in which to disagree with Tozer on.  The weakness discussed does not take away from the work in any way, but may, to the right reader, assist in helping Tozer make his point in a deeper way.

 

CONCLUSION

The areas in which the book shows its strength are too great to mention.  And He Dwelt Among Us is best suited for anyone who wants to have a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.  The verbiage, and accessibility of the text also allow it to be a resource for someone who is not a Christian.  Someone who is curious about the claims of Christ could easily pick up the work and understand it.  That is perhaps the greatest compliment.

James Snyder did a masterful job in organizing the sermons into a collective whole.  They are complimentary to each other and show a vast amount of salvation history within their pages.  There are many misconceptions and theories about the John’s gospel, and Tozer clears them up using the gifts that he was blessed with.  As previously stated the teaching contained within And He Dwelt Among Us may have been ahead of its time.  It is transcendent as the meaning that Tozer had is easily carried over to the reader today.  This book is a great addition not only to a theological library, but to anyone who strives to have a deeper faith on Christ.  It is beneficial to the new believer as well as to the individual who has been a Christian a majority of their life.

Thank you Jesus!

What did Jesus do to save us?  The importance of this question is one that has a real possibility to be understated.  It is a question that has been asked for all of church history, and theologians have debated it for centuries.  The reason is because it is the eternal question with eternal significance.  The nature of the question lies within the very nature of the Gospel itself.  Within the scope of this paper we briefly look at how Gregory the Great, Anselm, and Albrecht Ritschl answered the question.  In addition a look into how John Calvin modified Anselm’s theory will be discussed, and a look at the Moral Influence theory of atonement looked at along with it must be rejected.

Gregory the Great was the last of the Latin doctors of the church and was the first Pope to use the phrase “Servant of the servants of God[1].”  He believed Augustine was the greatest church father and he applied the soteriology of Augustine in a synergistic nature[2].  Synergism coordinates the human will and divine grace as both being factors in conversion[3].  This played heavily into how Gregory answered the question presented.  To get the grace needed one had to be crucified with Christ.  This meant having an attitude of extreme repentance, doing penance, self-denial (of most if not all bodily pleasures), partake in the sacraments of the church, and do works of love[4].  He also started to formalize the medieval doctrine of purgatory.  In his view Jesus died on the cross for the sins of man.  Faith was needed, but man had to constantly show that he was in a state of penance.  According to Scholar Roger Olson, “His theology had the effect-perhaps unintended-of destroying any sense of assurance or security about salvation for most medieval Christians[5].”

A few centuries later Anselm asked “Cur Deus Homo?  i.e. Why did God become man[6].”  Anselm saw the atonement in a way different then the popular Ransom theory.  Anselm believed that, for the atonement to be sufficient, then Christ had to be human and divine[7].  In regards to this theory Paul Enns writes, “God chose to resolve the matter (of sin) through satisfaction by the gift of his son[8].”  Since the honor of God was restored through the sacrifice of Christ sinners reap the reward of forgiveness of sins through faith.

From Anselm and Gregory the Great we now turn to 19th century liberal Protestant theology.  One of the leaders in this brand of theology was an individual by the name of Albrecht Ritschl.  He said to separate Christianity from science and separated it into two basic truth claims.  The claims in question are judgment of fact and judgment of value[9].  According to Ritschl Christ saved us by giving us the Kingdom of God on Earth.  This is done by humanity uniting themselves in love without a teaching about Heaven, Hell, or the afterlife.  In essence Christianity, according to Ritschl, is reduced to a system of moralism[10].  His system could be summed up by saying that the sacrifice of Christ changed men’s moral attitudes and caused them to accept God’s rule in their lives[11].

As previously discussed, in Anselm we find the Satisfaction theory of atonement.  Since man sinned then a sacrifice had to be made by a human, but the whole human race is tainted by sin.  The only acceptable sacrifice was Christ who was fully God and fully man.  Through Christ honor was restored to God.  The Protestant reformer John Calvin looked to modify Anselm’s theory.  John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, put forth the Penal Substitution theory of atonement.  This development stated that Christ died in our place, and he was punished where we should have been punished.  In regards to this John Calvin writes, “clothed with his righteousness, we can bravely surmount all the insults of the world: and as he replenishes us liberally with his gifts, so we can in our turn bring forth fruit unto his glory[12].”

What did Jesus do to save us?  Three individuals were looked at, and three theories were briefly discussed.  In regards to the theories of atonement touched on it is clear that evangelicals must reject the moral influence theory.  The theory is inadequate to describe the atoning work of the savior.  In regards to this the Franklin Johnson states, “The theory makes the death of Christ predominantly scenic, spectacular, an effort to display the love of God rather than an offering to God in its nature necessary for the salvation of man[13].”  In this theory Christ dies not to free man from the penalty of sin, but to bring about a new system of morality.  There is nothing about repentance, God’s holiness, God’s Justice, or God’s mercy in this theory.  The atonement and salvation are not a moral exercise because a proper confession comes before salvation[14].  Christ died for the sins of man, not to be a martyr for a morally superior society, though that should be a result of true conversion.

I now leave you with a few passages from scripture that help answer this question.

John 10:11- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Galatians 3:13-“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

Isaiah 53:4-6- “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray;     we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

1 Peter 3:18- “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

2 Corinthians 5:21- “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

1 Peter 2:24- “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

Jesus died for our sins and his finished work on the cross is perfect.  When we trust him by faith we are clothe in his righteous robe.  Thank you Jesus for this awesome gift that I do not deserve.

 

[1] Erwin Fahlbrusch et al, ed., Encyclopedia of Christianity, vol. 2, (Boston, MA: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 471.

[2] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 287.

[3] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1910), 786.

[4] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 288.

[5] Ibid, 289.

[6] Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler, eds., Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2007), 157.

[7] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 323.

[8] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 334.

[9] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 548.

[10] Ibid, 548.

[11] J.D. Douglas and Philip Comfort, eds., Who’s Who in Church History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale Publishers, 1992), 574.

[12] “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Calvin College, accessed June 24, 2016, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.xvi.html.

[13] Franklin Johnson, The Fundamentals, ed. R.A. Torrey and A.C. Dixon, vol. 3, (Los Angeles, CA: Bible Institute Of Los Angeles, 1917), 68.

[14] Malcolm B Yarnell, The Formation of Christian Doctrine (Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2007), 191.

Book Review: Jesus In Trinitarian Perspective

Throughout the history of the Christian church there have been hotly contested debates over various doctrines.  Though it may seem foreign to us today, the early church had to deal with people within its ranks who questioned the very deity of Christ.  Who was he and how is he to be understood?  The church dealt with many questions, but none so hotly contested as knowing Christ from a Trinitarian perspective.  As Gerald Bray writes in the forward, “Not everyone came on board with every aspect of this development, and there are still some historical divisions that have been stubbornly resistant to all attempts to overcome them[1].”  Jesus in a Trinitarian Perspective includes six chapters, authored by six contributors, and is edited by Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler.  Each chapter has a list of study questions along with a list of key terms.  They revisit some of these ancient issues and their implications on our understanding of Christ as part of the Trinity.

Fred Sanders starts the book with a great introduction to Christology.  As an introduction to this writes, “The six chapters of this book explore the implications of Jesus’ deity as one of the Trinity, tracing the long arc from God’s eternal being to humanity’s redemption[2].”  Dr. Sanders strives, and succeeds, in a making a complex issue easy to navigate and understand.  He does this by looking at the historical aspects including those of the council of Chalcedon.  This is vital since a proper Christology serves to help understand the Trinity in a fuller way[3].

After a great introduction by Fred Sanders, J. Scott Horrell follows with a chapter titled The Eternal Son of God in the Social Trinity.  J. Scott Horrell makes it perfectly clear from the onset that, although grammar speaking of the Trinity was lacking in the early church, they were Trinitarian[4].  He discusses the introduction of such language and grammar at the councils of Nicea and Constantinople, and also explains how they left some language open to interpretation.  In regards to this J. Scott Horrell writes, “The councils provide the box, so to speak, outside of which there is no Christian orthodoxy and inside of which there is room for somewhat varied understandings[5].”  He spends a great deal of time documenting scriptural evidence for the Trinity.  By doing so he documents for the reader that there are at least 106 passages of scripture that deal with the Trinitarian concept.

Donald Fairbairn next has a chapter titled The One Person Who is Jesus Christ.  A look at the compromise between to schools of thought at Chalcedon are discussed.  The schools that were at odds were those of Antioch and Alexandria.  He challenges a well-documented assertion that those in Antioch were unified in their Christology.  A study of patristic theology seems to indicate that this is not the case.  In discussing this development Fairbairn writes, “Careful study of these writers’ exegesis over the past half century has shown that the differences among Antiochenes were greater than the differences between them and the Alexandrians[6].”  What is interesting is that Dr. Fairbain seems to come into the research for his chapter with an open mind.  In doing so he rejects the accepted paradigm that Alexandrians allegorized scripture, and that the Antiochenes took it literally.  He bases this on patristic readings from Cyril of Alexandria and John Chrysostom and notes that their exegesis is similar.  They were combating what was a minority view of those such as Nestorius.

The next chapter is written by Gary DeWeese and is titled One person, Two Natures.  In this chapter he looks at the Trinity from a philosophical perspective.  He describes how different philosophical and gives an honest critique of the words person and nature.  In doing so it fits in perfectly with the language of early church councils, particularly Chalcedon.  In describing this language Dr. DeWeese writes, “The attempts to understand what, precisely, the God-man Jesus was necessarily involved the use of philosophical terms and concepts.  But as the background metaphysical systems changed, so did the meanings of those terms[7].”

The following chapter Christ’s Atonement and is written by Bruce Ware.  The overall concept of the chapter is that of the atonement.  The atonement must be the work of a Triune God, because without the Trinity there would be no atonement.  Of course if there is no atonement for our sin then there is no salvation[8].  Dr. Ware argues that to understand Christ is to understand him in his proper role as the second person of the Trinity.  Without his Trinitarian role, and that of the Father and the Spirit, then Christ would cease to be who he is.  The logical conclusion then is if Christ is not who he is then we are still dead in sin.

The last chapter was written by Klaus Issler, who is also one of the editors.  This chapter is titled Jesus’ Example and is a great treatise on the example of Christ for the church and every Christian.  Dr. Ware argues that Jesus was successful based on his dependence from the Father and the Spirit.  Dr. Issler writes, “The degree to which Jesus depended on the Father and the Spirit, instead of his own divine power, is the degree with which Jesus can be our genuine example[9].”  In elaborating on his thesis, Dr. Issler, quotes from the popular work of Thomas Kempis called Imitation of Christ, as well as a scriptural basis for imitating the savior.  Dr. Issler is wise is including a list of objections later in the chapter and masterfully overcomes possible objections.

Though there are many facets to the book the two which are most interesting in the Christological discussion, particularly in Chapter 1, and that of the atonement.  The Christological question is vital to Christianity and has further implications in the atonement.  To understand the Christological perspective one must look not only to scripture, but have an understanding of the patristic era and the language used.  This process is arduous, and will entail understanding philosophical and metaphysical terms.  This helps us to understand how the early church developed their theology, and how we defend our own.

The section on the atonement was most interesting in that there was some argumentation never heard before.  The idea that the atonement must be the work Christ involved in the Trinity had never been thought of before this book was read.  If the person of Jesus is removed from the Father and the Spirit then Christ would cease to be who he claimed he was.  If Christ was not who he claimed he was then the atonement really did not happen.  If the atonement did not happen then there is no salvation.

Though there are many strengths one is hard pressed to find weaknesses in the work.  One weakness is that there is a lot of theological language used.  This is understandable, especially since church councils are being discussed, and philosophical terms are being elaborated on.  Though key terms are listed, one who does not have a theological base would be hard pressed to follow along and would need to stop to discover what certain terms mean.  The writers do their best to overcome this, but the everyday layman may be overcome by it.

In conclusion this work is one that is beneficial for gaining a better understanding of Christology.  The authors are not afraid to put aside presuppositions and let the facts speak for themselves.  That is rare in today’s theological environment and is refreshing.  The authors provide much detail on topics such as Christology, atonement, and imitating Christ.  One would be hard-pressed in absorbing all knowledge in one read, and thus is essential to every theologian and Bible student library.

 

 

 

WORKS CITED

Sanders, Fred, and Klaus Issler, eds. Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2007.

[1] Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler, eds., Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 2007), xi.

[2] Ibid, 3.

[3] Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler, eds., Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 2007), 3.

[4] Ibid, 45.

[5] Ibid, 47.

[6] Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler, eds., Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 2007), 88.

[7] Ibid, 119.

[8] Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler, eds., Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 2007), 156.

[9] Ibid, 191.

When Heresy Attacks

I want to start off with a warning.  This article is deeply personal and involves a situation I feel very strongly about.  Throughout church history there has been no shortage of heresies that have been dealt with.  What is heresy an why is it so destructive?  To address this we must first define what heresy is.  The oxford dictionary defines heresy as a”Belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine.”

This is where the personal part of the article comes in.  I was with my family in church last week.  The regular pastor was out so we had a guest speaker in his place which has been a fairly common practice.  He said he was going to speak on forgiveness and, in all fairness, he did start that way.  However what came next was a total shock to me.  He started giving quotations from Buddha, spoke of karma, the law of attraction, and how the death of Christ was not enough to atone for sin.

I sat in the pew in utter shock.  I looked around and there were a couple others with the same looks I had.  I hope that just by reading this you see many red flags that should not be in Christian churches.  First of all Buddha spoke much about forgiveness, but should his teaching be preached in a Christian context?  Not at all.  Christ spoke much about forgiveness and gave us a great example of it when he forgave those who were in the process of executing him in Luke 23:34.  This particular preacher also spoke a great deal about Karma.  Many of us think that karma is simply reaping  what we sow.  For a better definition we look again to the oxford dictionary which states “the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.”  At the very base of karma is the idea of reincarnation.  This is the idea that we pay for our wronging in a previous life until we get it right.  This idea is simply incompatible with Christianity.

As if this were not bad enough this “preacher” blasphemed the crucifixion by saying that the death of Christ was not enough to atone for our sin.  This is completely foreign to scripture as many verses speak of Christ being the all sufficient sacrifice for our sin and I will list three of them.  The first is Isaiah 53:4-6 which states, “Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;  and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  The next verse is 2 Corinthians 5:21 which states, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  The third verse is 1 Peter 2:24 which states, “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”  There are many more verse, but these will suffice.  Christ was our perfect substitute.  He took on the penalty for our sin, and when we put our faith in him we are covered in his robe of righteousness.  Thee is nothing else to be done and his atonement is complete.  The requirement we have is faith…nothing else.

This dribble went on for around twenty minutes and I knew I had to do something.  However I did not want to act harshly so I slept on it.  In the morning I emailed the powers that be in the church, and after three days I heard nothing.  I emailed again and again nothing.  Heresy is destructive.  How many in the congregation that day heard this and thought it was valid Christian teaching?  How many souls were put into harms way because of this?  That is my fear and why I must speak out and make people aware of it.  To not speak up would mean I was complicit to what was being spoken, and that is not the case.  I have dedicated my life to teaching Christ and him crucified and will not stand on the sidelines while unsuspecting people are subjecting to these destructive heresies.  The church Father Basil the Great put it very well when he said, “Keep striving until the fire of heresy is put out, before it consumes the Church.”

Theories of Atonement: Penal Substitution

The substitution theory of atonement views the death of Christ as something that happened in the place of sinners.  By dying Christ took the place of those that sinned against God, and through his death sins of the sinner are expiated[1].  Since he died in our place his righteousness is then imputed to us when we believe by faith.  Regarding this John Bunyan wrote, “Now, if thou wouldst inherit righteousness, and so sanctification possess in body, soul, and spirit, then thou must to Jesus fly, as one ungodly first; and so by him crave pardon for thy sin which thou hast loved, and hast lived in; for this cannot at all forgiven be, for any righteousness that is in thee.[2]”      The theory itself has a great deal of biblical support as Christ is mentioned as substitute in 2 Corinthians 5:21.  1 Peter 2:24 speaks of Christ bearing the sins of others on the cross.  This idea is mentioned again in Hebrews 9:28.  The prophet Isaiah spoke off the Messiah’s death as being substitutionary in nature (Isa. 53:4-6).  The words of Christ himself in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 speak of the fact that he came to die for sinners.  To take this theme a bit further the Apostle Paul uses specific Greek verbs in his writing.  The preposition used is huper and means “for’.  This specific verb is used in Galatians 3:13, 1 Timothy 2:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and 1 Peter 3:18 to signify that Christ died on behalf of sinners[3].

There is no shortage to the theories of atonement that have been developed over the ages.  The ones contained in this essay just scratch the surface, but it is vitally important to understand just what the atonement is.  The mission of Christ to save his people can be best be summed up with the Penal Substitution theory.  This theory has the most biblical support, and the exegesis of the supporting passages lend credence to the conclusion.  The atonement tells the story of the second person of the Trinity becoming man, walking among us, being tempted as we are, and dying in place for us.  To understand it is important to know just who He is.

[1] John D. Berry, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Substitution.”

[2] John Bunyan, One Thing is Needful (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2014), 741.

[3] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 337.

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