Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Know Your Heretics: Arius

Justin Holcomb
Academic Dean of Re:Train
Know Your Heretics series:


Historical Background

Arius (256-336 A.D.) is the most famous heretic of Christian theology. He was born in Libya and died in Constantinople. Arius held a prominent position as a priest in the Church of Alexandria when he started a theological controversy in 318. Arius denied the eternal deity of Christ and his equality with the Father. He argued that Christ was created by the Father.

Since the age of the Apostles, Jesus had always been considered divine by his followers, but his precise relation to the Godhead had not yet been defined. Thanks to Arius, the Trinitarian controversy regarding the status of Jesus Christ erupted.

Arius’ View of Jesus

Arius did not believe that the Father and the Son were of the same substance. Instead, he believed in the eternal functional and ontological subordination of the Son to the Father—that the Son was a lower being than the Father.

According to Arius, the Son was created before time. In other words, he was not co-eternal with the Father. As he put it, “Before he was begotten or created or appointed or established, he did not exist; for he was not unbegotten” (Letter to Eusebius). Furthermore, the Son was not of one divine substance with the Father. He was rather of a similar substance with the Father (homoiousios). On this view, the divine qualities of the Son are given to him by the Father.

Arius claimed that when the Scriptures speak of Jesus as the “Son” of God, it is merely a title of honor—a title given to Jesus as the one on whom the Father had lavished a special grace. Thus, Arius says, “He is not God truly, but by participation in grace…He too is called God in name only” (Early Christian Doctrines).

Orthodox Response

The theology of Arius became so controversial that Constantine intervened in 325, calling the Council of Nicaea. Athanasius, the leading defender of Nicene orthodoxy and the most prolific writer of orthodox Trinitarian doctrine in the fourth century, saw a major flaw in the writings of Arius and called his heresy the “forerunner of the Antichrist” (Athanasius, Or. Ar. 1:1).

According to Athanasius, the Son was eternally begotten from the Father such that he can be said to be of the same essence (homoousios) with the Father: “The Son is other in kind and nature than the creatures, or rather belongs to the Father’s substance and is of the same nature as He.” (Athanasius, Contra Arianos, III).

Why Does All This Matter?

There are some today who repeat Arius’ views. However, Jesus claimed to be God and the Christian tradition has held that there is an intimate connection between salvation and the deity of Christ.

We are saved from God by God. Only a divine Savior can bear the weight of God’s wrath in atonement. Only Jesus as the God-man can satisfy the enormous debt and penalty caused by human sin against God. No mere human could bridge that gap. Only a divine Savior can pay the costly price of redeeming us from our bondage to sin and death. Only the God-man can conquer all his people’s enemies. Our salvation rests on the infinite capacities of our savior, Jesus Christ.

Originally Posted By Justin Holcolmb from http://www.theresurgence.com/

Heresy Defined (www.Carm.org)


"Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in on attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself." Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.2

The word "heresy" comes from the Greek hairesis which means "choosing," or "faction." At first, the term heresy did not carry the negative meaning it does now. But, as the early church grew in its scope and influence throughout the Mediterranean area, various teachers proposed controversial ideas about Christ, God, salvation, and other biblical themes. It became necessary for the church to determine what was and was not true according to the Bible. For example, Arius of Alexandar (320 AD) taught that Jesus was a creation. Was this true? Was this important? Other errors arose. The Docetists taught that Jesus wasn't human. The Modalists denied the Trinity. The Gnostics denied the incarnation of Christ. Out of necessity, the church was forced to deal with these heresies by proclaiming orthodoxy. And in so doing, condemnation upon these heresies and the heretics became a reality.

Unfortunately, some of those who attempted to defend and establish the truth did so by killing those who disagreed with them. What would prompt such hostile actions against those who merely had "differences of opinion" on biblical subjects? The answer may not ever be fully known, but I offer this explanation.

Culturally, when Christianity arose, it arose in the midst of a hostile environment. Judaism and the Roman Empire both warred against its people and its teaching. Persecutions arose and Christians were killed for their faith. In the Diaspora (dispersion) of the late first century, Christians were scattered throughout the Mediterranean area due to the persecutions in Israel. The Roman Empire with its theology of many gods was not friendly to Christianity's monotheism. Therefore, Christians were further persecuted.

Theologically, the Bible teaches condemnation upon false doctrines and false teachers. Gal. 1:8-9 says, "But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed" (NASB). See also 11 Cor. 16:22; 2 Cor. 11:1315; 1 Tim. 1:18-20; Titus 3:10. Why is this taught in the Bible? The reason is simple. Christians are saved by faith in the work of Jesus on the cross. But faith in itself is not enough. Faith is not a substance you can put in a jar. It is belief in something. Faith is only as good as who it is placed in. If you put your faith in a false God, you are lost because a false god cannot save anyone. This is why God says in Exodus 20:3, "You shall have no other gods before Me." Faith is not what saves, but faith in the true God is what saves.

I suspect that it is a combination of the cultural and theological contexts that resulted in Christians seeking to "do away with" the heretics. Heresy has the ability to damn because they have the ability to confuse the gospel sufficiently to make it powerless. For this reason, I suspect that to many ancient Christians, heresy became one of the most serious of offenses.

Essential verses nonessential

It becomes necessary to define those doctrines which separate Christian from non-Christian. It would make no sense to persecute anyone over a doctrine that is not essential to the faith. Such nonessentials, in my opinion, would include baptism of infants, pre or post-trib rapture, worship on Saturday or Sunday, musical instruments in the church, the charismatic gifts, worship styles, dress codes, etc. These kinds of subjects do not affect one's salvation. Unfortunately, the disagreements that arise around these subjects result in denominational fragmentation.

Essentials of the faith would include who God is, who Jesus is, salvation by grace, and Jesus' resurrection. From these subjects we have derived doctrines known as the Trinity and the hypostatic union (Jesus' two natures: God and man). The Bible tells us that these doctrines concerning God, Christ, salvation, and resurrection are essential to the faith. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that Christians know their faith and know how to defend it against the doctrines that compromise the essentials.

List of Heresy floating around today

•Adoptionism - God granted Jesus powers and then adopted him as a Son.
•Albigenses - Reincarnation and two gods: one good and other evil.
•Apollinarianism - Jesus divine will overshadowed and replaced the human.
•Arianism - Jesus was a lesser, created being.
•Docetism - Jesus was divine, but only seemed to be human.
•Donatism - Validity of sacraments depends on character of the minister.
•Gnosticism - Dualism of good and bad and special knowledge for salvation.
•Kenosis - Jesus gave up some divine attributes while on earth.
•Modalism - God is one person in three modes.
•Monarchianism - God is one person.
•Monophysitism - Jesus had only one nature: divine.
•Nestorianism - Jesus was two persons.
•Patripassionism - The Father suffered on the cross
•Pelagianism - Man is unaffected by the fall and can keep all of God's laws.
•Semi-Pelagianism - Man and God cooperate to achieve man's salvation.
•Socinianism - Denial of the Trinity. Jesus is a deified man.
•Subordinationism - The Son is lesser than the Father in essence and or attributes.
•Tritheism - the Trinity is really three separate gods.

Article written by Rev. Matt Slick from www.carm.org

Monday, March 22, 2010

Good Quote...

Originally received from the Living Waters Newsletter March 22, 2010

"The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." Acts 11:26

The lives of the converts were so different from their unbelieving neighbors, that they were called Christians. It is supposed that the name was given them in mockery or contempt by the heathen people of Antioch. But the name stuck, and is now used universally to describe those who follow Christ. It may not be the very best of names.

Perhaps disciples is better--disciples means learners, followers. We should all be disciples of Christ and should ever be learning of Him, growing in grace and likeness of Him as we follow Him.

Perhaps believers is a better name. It carries in itself the thought that we are saved by believing on Christ. It is faith which works the victories in this world.

Perhaps followers would be better. To follow Christ is to receive Him as Master and to cling to Him in obedience and devotion wherever we may go.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Twilight Movie Review....

This is a Movie Review by Pastor James Harleman from Mar Hill Church is Seattle.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Bold Young Man

Alex B. is a 6th grader in San Jose, CA. He and his brother Richie enjoy watching "The Way of the Master." His dad wrote to us:

"One day before school, Alex came down to breakfast wearing a tool belt filled with about 10 different gospel tracts and million dollar Bibles. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he wears this to school (only taking it off to play basketball or four square) and passes gospel tracts out to kids at school. I'll admit that I thought he was a little weird. He came home and told me that kids come up to him and ask him for tracts. I felt ashamed of myself and proud of my son. He now wears it regularly to school."

From LivingWaters.com newsletter.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Do You Love The Law?

Do You Love The Law?
Joe Thorn Acts 29 Pastor - Chicago

Is God's law a delight, or a drag? You would probably say the answer is a little complicated. Many of us who work hard to remain focused on the gospel as our hope before God have an almost visceral reaction to "the law," particularly when it is presented as a means of obtaining or maintaining peace with God. This is good. The law is never our hope. Jesus is.

However, the law is "holy, righteous and good" (Romans 7:12) and Scripture tells us how "blessed" is the man who "delights" in the law (Psalm 1). The Psalmist says, "Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 19:97). The apostle Paul also says, "I delight in the law of God in my inner being" (Romans 7:22). Why do (should) the people of God love the law? Here are 3 reasons.

1. In the law we have divine direction.

God has not left us alone to figure out what is right and wrong. He has graciously spoken clearly, and we now know the difference between good and evil. In the law we see the character of God and his will to be carried out on earth as it is in heaven. For example, we not only know that God calls us to do good to others in some general sense, but more specifically that we should be hospitable, loving, generous, and patient. He tells us what he desires of us. This is itself grace. We can delight that God has been kind enough to tell us what he requires of us (Micah 6:8).

2. Through the law we uncover our sin.

The law of God not only shows us God's will, but it also acts as a mirror that exposes our sin and falsehood. In the law we see God's standards and commands, but we also see how quickly we break them (Romans 7:7-25). As we have broken the law, it breaks us. The law is used by God to afflict our conscience so that we feel the weight of our guiltiness. And this is a reason to love the law, as it can eventually destroy our pride and any confidence we put in our ability to measure up to God's standards.

3. By the law we are led to the gospel.

In showing us the will of God, and our inability to keep it, the law leads us to see our need for mercy and grace. As many like to say, before we can know and embrace the "good news" of redemption and restoration in Jesus, we must first know and embrace the bad news that we are condemned as law-breakers and under the curse of God. It functions as one of the tools that God uses to prepare us to meet Jesus. So, we love the law as it leads us to see our need for grace and the beauty of the gospel against the backdrop of our guilt and corruption.

But here's the rub: we can only love the law after it has been fulfilled by Christ on our behalf. The law will only be a delight to us after we have found life by the gospel.

For without the gospel, in the law we only find standards unmet and guilt without relief. We wind up sharing Martin Luther's frustration with the call to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and say with him, "Love God? Sometimes I hate him!" Apart from the gospel the law leaves us broken and needy.

It is in the gospel where God's standards are met, his law is fulfilled, sin is forgiven, and we are restored to him. The reality of our justification before God through Christ liberates us from the law's condemning power and produces in us a delight in God's law and a motivation to keep it for God's glory and our good.

Is the law our delight? It really depends on whether the gospel is our hope and boast. If it is, then the law does not condemn us, but guides us. It shows us God's way, reminds us of our need for the gospel, and as we walk in it the law leads toward the good of our neighbors and praise of our God (Matthew 5:16). That is our delight.

Originally Posted By Joe Thorn Acts 29 Pastor - Chicago from http://www.theresurgence.com

A Response from Ray Comfort (www.raycomfortfood.blogspot.com)

"Dear Ray, Please address some of the rebuttals that have been thrown at you. Such: Your idea of evolution (one species giving birth to another) would disprove evolution. The Bible being written by man. The Bible being horribly inconsistent. Your God doing immoral acts in the Bible. Why atheists "don't exist", but you still address us as such? Providing support that your God is the actual Creator (as opposed to other religions). Why the Bible condemns people for genetic defects (i.e. Dwarfs)." Benjamin

Species to species evolution is not one species "giving birth" to another. It is the theory that human beings evolved from primates (that they are our common ancestor). There is no empirical evidence for any species evolving from another species--either in the fossil record and in the existing creation. Every animal brings forth after its own kind. All a believer in evolution has is a belief that what he has been told is true.

The Scriptures were written by men, but they were "inspired by God" (see 2 Timothy 3:16). Do you write a letter or does your pen? You do the writing, and the pen is the instrument you use. In the Bible, God used man to pen His letter to humanity.

The Bible is not "horribly inconsistent." It’s not even slightly inconsistent. The problem is that it is not "rightly divided" by many of its readers. One great key to understanding Scripture is the correct place of "Law" and "grace." Failure to do that will leave any reader in confusion.

God has never done anything that is "immoral." All of His judgments are righteous and true altogether. He has proclaimed the death sentence upon the whole of humanity, and if He carried out swift justice today and treated each of us according to our sins, we would be in Hell in a second.

But He is rich in mercy and is waiting for sinners to repent (this is referred to as "the Day of Grace"). So it would be wise to draw back your holier-than-thou finger, and not stand in judgment over Almighty God.

It is impossible for any atheist to exist--because to say that there is no God, you need "absolute" knowledge. No one has that but God. That’s why Richard Dawkins uses the word "probably" when he says that there is no God. He doesn’t know if God doesn't exist, so he (like every other professing atheist) is actually "agnostic." It is because of this that I often use the word "professing" before the word atheist, but it becomes tiresome to do so every time.

It is easy to provide evidence that the God of the Bible "is the actual Creator (as opposed to other religions)." Ask Him yourself. He promises to reveal Himself to all that come on His terms (see John 14:21). No religion claims that. To them, the Creator is unknowable.

So there's the gauntlet. But most won’t take up the challenge because they "love the darkness and hate the light. Neither will they come to the light, lest their deeds be exposed" (See also John 8:31, 21).

Finally, the Bible does not condemn people for genetic defects. Those who believe that it does, would probably think that the Scriptures are horribly inconsistent--because they don’t "rightly divide" them.

The Old Testament (Law) carries hundreds of "typologies" of the New Testament (grace). You can see an example in John chapter 3:14-15: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." The opening of the Red Sea, the life of Joseph, the conquering of Jericho, etc., are all hidden types of New Testament truth.

Your reference is presumably to those with physical deformities not being allowed to minister in the Temple of God (under the Law). This is a type of the perfection that is required for those who enter the Kingdom of God (under grace).

Without the perfect righteousness of the Savior, none of us could enter Heaven.

BTW. The cartoon drawn by Richard Gunther does not say that I am big and that the questioner is small (that would be ridiculous), but that rebuttals of this sort that are "thrown" at the Christian always fall back upon the head of the questioner.

Originally Posted by Ray Comfort on 3/05/2010 07:09:00 AM at www.raycomfortfood.blogspot.com