The Need for Formal Formulation of Trinitarian Dogma

In the early church many were attempting to understand the divinity of Christ, and in extension the Holy Trinity.  Today, we have the benefit of the Church correcting false ideas.  However, when these ideas were formulated there was not a dogmatic decree regarding the Trinity though the dogma had been taught in the earliest days of the church.  The heresies of Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Subordinationism, and Arianism required that the church formally formulate the Trinitarian doctrine.

Dynamic Monarchianism taught that the Father was true God, and that Christ was a man who was indwelled with a divine spirit (Preuss 126).  Patripassian Monarchianism takes it a step further by acknowledging Christ as divine but does not go far enough as the two are not of the same substance.  Sabellianism, or Modalism as it is also called, taught that God manifested himself in different modes and that there was only one person of the Godhead.  In short, God was made up of one person (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch.5).  Arianism denied the divinity of Christ and taught that He was a creation of the Father (Lecture Notes), and this was also the Arian view of the Holy Spirit.  In that regard, he was subordinate to the Father.  The heresies mentioned all have elements of subordinationism, because in various respects the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit is lowered.

With these heresies being taught the souls of the faithful were at risk.  The church rightly saw that an attack on the persons of the Trinity was a salvific issue.  Afterall, if Christ was not fully divine then his sacrifice on the cross meant little or nothing.  The church responded to the heresies, and formally defined the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in 325.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018.

Preuss, Arthur. The Divine Trinity.  https://archive.org/details/divinetrinityad00pohlgoog, accessed November 12, 2018.

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The Heresies of Adoptionism and Docetism in the Early Church

When we think of the early days of Christianity, there is a tendency to think about our ancestors in the faith in today’s terms.  We may think they met in churches when they actually met in homes.  That every doctrine that we hold to today was laid out the same back then.  Unfortunately, this line of thinking could not be further from the truth.   The early Church dealt with many issues, and one of those issues was over Christology.

When it comes to Christology the early Church specifically had to deal with Adoptionism and Docetism.  These are two Christologies that were heretical in nature, but they were attractive to people because they answered some lingering questions that had not yet been answered.  Before those answers are discussed it is prudent to define these two terms.

Adoptionism is a Christological belief that Jesus was adopted as the son of God either after his baptism, resurrection, or ascension.  This view was seen in many parts of early Christianity, but a writer by the name of Apollinaris wrote about it extensively.  Regarding this Richard Norris writes, “The divine Logos ‘became human’ in the sense that he became embodied and thus shared the structural constitution of a human being” (Norris 22).  In the view of Adoptionism Christ only became Christ after he was adopted after spending his life doing God’s will.  In other words, the He was not born with two natures.

The other Christological view to be discussed is known as Docetism.  Docetism was an early form of Gnosticism which taught that all matter was evil.  Since all matter was evil it stands to reason that Christ was not crucified.  They saw no need for the Son to make himself involved in physical matters (Norris 13).  Many Church Fathers such as St. Irenaeus and Tertullian fought against the growth of this sect. The sect hated the flesh and taught that the divine spirit left the person of Christ before he died on the cross.  They failed to realize that man was made in God’s image, and even with all its faults the flesh is an object of God’s love and grace (Norris 13).

These two theories became popular, and even thrived, because they answered two questions.  Firstly, can a “whether a mediatorial Logos, when he becomes incarnate, can honestly be understood as God present in person” (Norris 8).  Secondly, if the idea of the incarnation is a contradiction.  There were several reasons why they were rejected.  In the case of Adoptionism it simply contradicts scripture.  Scripture teaches in many places that the Son always was and was not something that came later.  One such passage is John 1:1 which states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (NRSV).  This shows that Christ always, and since the womb Christ was fully human and fully divine.  For his sacrifice on the cross to be redemptive it had to be a sinless offering.  Tis could not have happened if it was a man who was adopted at thirty years of age.  In the case of Docetism scripture also states that Christ willingly put on flesh.  We see this in Hebrews 2:14, “Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil” (NRSV).  This shows again that if Christ was not also flesh then the cross meant nothing, and the Gospel is nullified.

Image result for adoptionism and docetism

Works Cited

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

 

Norris, Richard.  The Christological Controversy.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press.  1980.  Print.

Adoptionism and Docetism in the Early Church

When we think of the early days of Christianity, there is a tendency to think about our ancestors in the faith in today’s terms.  We may think they met in churches when they actually met in homes.  That every doctrine that we hold to today was laid out the same back then.  Unfortunately, this line of thinking could not be further from the truth.   The early Church dealt with many issues, and one of those issues was over Christology.

When it comes to Christology the early Church specifically had to deal with Adoptionism and Docetism.  These are two Christologies that were heretical in nature, but they were attractive to people because they answered some lingering questions that had not yet been answered.  Before those answers are discussed it is prudent to define these two terms.

Adoptionism is a Christological belief that Jesus was adopted as the son of God either after his baptism, resurrection, or ascension.  This view was seen in many parts of early Christianity, but a writer by the name of Apollinaris wrote about it extensively.  Regarding this Richard Norris writes, “The divine Logos ‘became human’ in the sense that he became embodied and thus shared the structural constitution of a human being” (Norris 22).  In the view of Adoptionism Christ only became Christ after he was adopted after spending his life doing God’s will.  In other words, the He was not born with two natures.

 

 

 

The other Christological view to be discussed is known as Docetism.  Docetism was an early form of Gnosticism which taught that all matter was evil.  Since all matter was evil it stands to reason that Christ was not crucified.  They saw no need for the Son to make himself involved in physical matters (Norris 13).  Many Church Fathers such as St. Irenaeus and Tertullian fought against the growth of this sect. The sect hated the flesh and taught that the divine spirit left the person of Christ before he died on the cross.  They failed to realize that man was made in God’s image, and even with all its faults the flesh is an object of God’s love and grace (Norris 13).

These two theories became popular, and even thrived, because they answered two questions.  Firstly, can a “whether a mediatorial Logos, when he becomes incarnate, can honestly be understood as God present in person” (Norris 8).  Secondly, if the idea of the incarnation is a contradiction.  There were several reasons why they were rejected.  In the case of Adoptionism it simply contradicts scripture.  Scripture teaches in many places that the Son always was and was not something that came later.  One such passage is John 1:1 which states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (NRSV).  This shows that Christ always, and since the womb Christ was fully human and fully divine.  For his sacrifice on the cross to be redemptive it had to be a sinless offering.  Tis could not have happened if it was a man who was adopted at thirty years of age.  In the case of Docetism scripture also states that Christ willingly put on flesh.  We see this in Hebrews 2:14, “Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil” (NRSV).  This shows again that if Christ was not also flesh then the cross meant nothing, and the Gospel is nullified.

 

WORKS CITED

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Norris, Richard.  The Christological Controversy.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press.  1980.

El Shaddai

I normally do not respond to those I disagree with, but in this case I am going to make an exception.  I make this exception fully aware that others will disagree, and that is fine.  I am referencing a facebook post from a friend of mine.  She is a gender equality champion within the church, and advocates for the inclusion of women in pastoral roles.  That debate is not what this post is about, but in recent days she has had many posts that say that God is both a father and a mother.  That is also a post for another day, but today’s post has to do with her definition of El Shaddai.  In a facebook post from October 3 she writes that El Shaddai means “many breasted one.”  I disagree for the following reasons:

El is another name translated as “God” and can be used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God’s character.  El Shaddai occurs 48 times in the Bible. Out of the 48 occurrences it appears 42 times in the patriarchal period: 9 times in the Torah, 2 times in Ruth and 31 times in Job. It occurs only 6 times outside of this period: 4 times in the prophets and 2 times in the Psalms.

Another word much like Shaddai, and from which many believe it derived, is shad meaning “breast” in Hebrew (some other scholars believe that the name is derived from an Akkadian word Šadu, meaning “mountain,” suggesting strength and power).

This refers to God completely nourishing, satisfying, and supplying His people with all their needs as a mother would her child. Connected with the word for God—El—this denotes a God who freely gives nourishment and blessing, He is our Sustainer.

Knowing that God is El Shaddai matters. It matters because it reminds us that the Lord is our mighty God, and like Him there is no other.  Theology matters and if we do not have a right theology then our concept of God is off.  God is the author and sustainer of life, but we should not twist words to fit our own ideologies and personal theological preferences.

This post is short compared to others, but I felt that the correct meaning of the word was important.  God bless you.

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.”

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