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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Christology

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God
(Matthew 16:16 – ESV)

In doctrine and practice, it is not merely what you affirm, but also what you deny. For example, a child doesn’t need to know all about the Trinity to be saved. However, if a theologian, pastor, or so-called seasoned believer knows about the doctrine of the Trinity and yet denies it, then we have a different situation. Again, does a person need to know all bible doctrine to be saved? No, but if that same person denies essential doctrine, say the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and clings to some other way, say salvation by grace plus works, then we do not have a believer but a heretic and/or an apostate.

There are many false Christ’s out there and false doctrines about the true Christ. What we want to do here is to explain some of these Christological heresies. For some, this may seem a little too heavy for you at first, but it isn’t and you need this information, so stick with it, because you will see these things pop up in your future, and you need to be able to recognize them and run from them.

Doceticism – doctrine especially associated with the Gnostics that Jesus had no human body and only appeared to have died on the cross. Jesus only spirit not physical man; also used to describe teaching that focuses on divine to the exclusion of human (Luke 24:36-43 / Acts 10:41 / 1 John 4:1-3).

Other Gnostics admitted the humanity of the man Jesus, but claimed that the Christ was an aeon or power that came on Jesus at His baptism in the form of a dove and left him on the Cross so that only the man Jesus died. This power was not all power, and Jesus was not fully God.

A variation of this is that some Messianic Jews and others believe that Jesus was born fully man and became fully God upon His baptism by the Holy Spirit.

Cerinthianism – This flawed notion, separating Jesus from “the Christ”, and saying that Jesus was a man who attained godlike power, or that he simply "realized" the "divine spark" or "the Christ within", and that we can do the same. This fails to give Jesus the glory He is due, and is therefore worshipping man and his potential instead. This goes all the way back to Paul’s time: the Son was simply a man filled with the divine power of God and therefore was in no way a divine person. In the book of Colossians, Paul nails the door shut on the “divine principle” nonsense we hear of today. Paul says unequivocally that Jesus was and is God, fully God. He doesn’t have the power, He IS the power. Modern day variations include Christian Science, and the New Age Jesus.

Ebionites – many believe that some of the Judaizers (see Galatians) were of this sect. This is a belief that Jesus was the entirely human son of Jesus and Mary. This denied preexisting divinity of Jesus, believing He was a mortal man who was adopted by God for perfectly performing the Jewish Law. The Ebionites believed in the necessity of following the Law and observed all the Jewish rites, such as circumcision and the seventh-day Sabbath, while rejecting the writings of Paul as those of an apostate. This leads to a denial or a distortion of the Trinity, the virgin birth, original sin and the death of Jesus as an atonement for sin, or having to reinterpret Paul through some other grid. Modern manifestations include the Seventh Day Adventists (to a degree) and in a sense the Sufi Muslims.

Arianism – Jesus was of similar (but not identical) substance as the Father; there was a time when He was not. This denies that Jesus was of the same substance as God and holding instead that He was only the highest of created beings. Jesus had the divine power but was not a part of it, but created by it. Not quite fully human, not quite fully divine.

Modern manifestations, variations, and theological cousins: Some adherents of Unitarianism fall into this category. Jehovah's Witnesses do have some similar beliefs to Arius, namely, that Jesus had a pre-human existence as the Logos. However, Arius viewed the Holy Spirit as a person, whereas Jehovah's Witnesses do not attribute personality to the spirit. Jehovah's Witnesses also, unlike Arians, deny belief in a disembodied soul after death, and in eternal punishment in hell for the unrepentantly wicked. Christadelphians, along with the Church of the Blessed Hope, believe that Jesus' pre-natal existence was a conceptual Logos, rather than a literal Logos. Mormons believe in the unity in purpose of the Godhead but that Jesus is a divine being distinct from God the Father, but the same in every other respect.

Apollinarianism – Jesus' soul was divine rather than human, only his body was truly human. God was in Jesus' head, in a sense. In this view, Jesus was the man; Christ was the mind.

Socinianism – Jesus only the human instrument of divine mercy and the Holy Spirit only the divine activity of God. This leads to a denial of God’s omnipotence and of original sin. Modern day manifestations are seen in Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist churches and in what is known as the “Open Theism” view.

Nestorianism – this view of Jesus is that the divine, and the man, shared the same body but retained two separate personhoods. This Jesus would be schizophrenic in a sense.

Eutychianism – Jesus' two natures were assimilated so that his human nature was deified by its union with his divine nature, and formed a new hybrid (theanthropic) nature. Modern manifestation and variation can be seen in the Eastern Orthodox conception and doctrine of theosis.

Modalism / Sabellianism / Patripassianism – is the belief that the Father, Son and Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God, rather than three distinct persons. There are subtle differences in these but a modern manifestation / variation is the Oneness Pentecostals.

There are actually more we could mention, but you can begin to see why the Trinity is such an important doctrine because it holds the other important things together (like the Hypostatic Union, or the Atonement) and acts as a bulwark against heresy. John Calvin called the doctrine of the Trinity Christianity’s special mark of distinction. Virtually all heresies begin with a misconception the nature of God. Mess with Jesus, and you mess up everything else.


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13 Comments:

At 11:11 PM, Blogger jazzycat said...

J.D.,
Very good and informative. We have to be discerning and watchful at all times.
wayne

 
At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very true. This just goes to show you how Satan is using man to twist the Trinity around. Like you said JD, this how been happening since the Father sent (His) only Son Jesus to die for are sins. Now in the modern world we can see how man has really twisted the Trinity. Not only with new religions starting up every where, but sciencetist pretty say that God is nonexistent an every just happened naturally over time. This is interresting because at one point in time (not really sure of time lines here), but sciencetist use to use the bible as a reference in there studies of the world, man, an so on. Now only christians (which are becoming pretty much controverial becomes of our beliefs in Christ our Lord an Savior) hold true to the Bible an it's teaching for more complete life, so to speak. Not so much in this world, but in Heaven with our Maker the Father of ALL things. By the way JD tonites class on pray was Great. This is Heavenly Warrior saying " May our Father in Heaven continue to fill us with (His) presence, wisdom, an love".

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

I think the hypostatic union is one of the most important, and simultaneously misunderstood doctrines there is. A lot of people can say 100% man and 100% God with their mouths, but in practice they mean 50% man and 50% God.

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger Even So... said...

true, true, and true...

 
At 12:02 PM, Blogger Craver Vii said...

Succinct. Quite handy!

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

Thanks, Craver, that was exactly the intent...

 
At 3:52 PM, Anonymous stevehall said...

Interesting piece; being a former Christian Scientist, I would say Cerinthianism comes close to Mary Baker Eddy taught, but being that both Doceticism & Cerinthianism (as well as the Ebonite teachings) are Gnostic in nature, it’s understandable that the lines of distinction may be blurred.

Cerinthianism – …(separates) Jesus from “the Christ”, and saying that Jesus was a man who attained godlike power, and that we can do the same

This comes close to defining MBE’s teaching, except that she would say that Jesus didn’t “attain” godlike power; rather, he “realized” the power already within as he understood & accepted “the Christ idea” within him. MBE went on to say that all of us can likewise “walk in Godly perfection” as we simply realize “the Christ idea” within us. Extrapalating all this from Gen 1:27- God made man in His image & likeness (& therefore perfect), she purposely errs as she builds her case upon the factualality & literalness of this verse, all the while fictionalizing Gen 3 & all other Scripture which contradicts her false doctrine.

Unlike many other “self-made religions” that use poor translations to exclude what they don’t want to accept as reality, CSists use the King James version exclusively. They simply don’t focus on the portions of Scripture that call into question their beliefs. Thus the weekly Christian Science “lesson plans” are, quite literally, a hop, skip, & a jump through the Bible, almost never staying in one place too long, lest God’s Word disturb their happy religion with the truth. Therefore, anyone speaking with a CSist may ask the question- “Why is Gen 1:27 accorded more divine inspiration & weight than Gen 3?” (or Ps. 51, Is 59, Rom 7, etc…)

This is probably one reason why 1 John is my one of my favorite portions of Scripture. While it’s clearly written to dispel Gnosticism in general, John’s disciple Polycarp recorded that John personally warned the brethren to stay away the man Cerinthus in particular.

 
At 4:02 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

Thanks for the input, Steve...yeah, I agree with you about MBE, it would be more clear to change the wording to "thre divine spark" idea, the Christ within and such...yeah, look for the change, and thanks again...

 
At 4:06 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

The wording has been modified...

 
At 6:41 PM, Blogger Gojira said...

Excellent post there brother. It is funny to me, what I am about to tell you: There are some big name Catholics who served on the Pope's Biblical Council who will tell you that Cyril misunderstood Nestorious (who, they will tell you, was not nestorian) and whose definition is in line with orthodox thought, while Cyril was somewhat of a monophysite. Of course, that ticks other Catholics off and so they go back and forth between each other. That is funny to me.

Anywho, that was a great post you gave there, brother.

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Cyril said, in his ninth of 12 anathemas against Nestorius, "If any man shall say that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Holy Ghost, so that he used through him a power not his own and from him received power against unclean spirits and power to work miracles before men and shall not rather confess that it was his own Spirit through which he worked these divine signs; let him be anathema."

In Matthew 12:28, Jesus contradicted Cyril for recall the words of Christ: "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

Likewise Peter (as Luke records) contradicts Cyril in his sermon at Pentecost where he describes Jesus of Nazareth as, "...a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know..."

Clearly Jesus was the son of God, and was God himself before, during and after the incarnation. I think Cyril was rightly zealous in trying to defend the deity of Christ - but a little off here.

If Christ did all those miracles in his through his own divinity then we all readily agree that Christ was 100% God, but no one could (soberly) argue that this exercising of his own divine squares with the description of Christ "emptying himself" in becoming a man (c.f. Philippians 2:7). This seems to be exalting Christ's divinity at the expense of his humiliation.

That's my take on it. Jesus was only and ever one person, before, during, and after the incarnation - but during the incarnation (in taking on flesh) Christ emptied himself of all deific privilege, so that he lived entirely as a man. If we fail to reason correctly with regards to the impact that the humiliation of Christ had on his ministry - that is, if we conclude that Jesus did what he did "because he was God" as opposed to "because he was indwelt by the Holy Spirit and God had given him that ministry - then we confuse Christ's ministry with his deity, and in so doing we [1] muddy our own understanding of how we are supposed to minister, and perhaps more significantly, we [2] limit our own understanding of what can be done through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But again, that is just my take on it.

 
At 1:06 PM, Blogger Gojira said...

I think you have a good take on it, Daniel. The bru-haha in Catholicism has to do mainly with the writings of Brown, Rahner, and Galtier. The main point in the debate had to do with Christ saying that only the Father knows the date of the end. Those holding to a more traditional view don't take too kindly to the scholarship of the above mention men. Protestant Harold O.J. Brown takes an indepth look at the Cyril/Nestorian conflict in his work "Heresies." Giovanni Miegge also goes into an indepth discussion in his most excellent "The Virgin Mary." I am going to have to post about all this.

 
At 3:05 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I shall have to find a copy of "Heresies" and give it a good thumbing. Thanks Gorija

 

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