Friday, June 25, 2010

Know Your Heretics: Apollinarius

Know Your Heretics
Justin Holcomb Director of the Resurgence
Know Your Heretics series


Historical Background

In the years following the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., the church was wrestling with many questions about the person and work of Christ. At Nicaea, the deity of Christ was established as orthodox Christian teaching, but many questions concerning the person of Christ remained.
Apollinarius, named the Bishop of Laodicea in 362 A.D., is responsible for Apollinarianism. This view compromises the full humanity of Jesus by suggesting that the eternal logos (Word) replaced the human soul of Jesus and served as the life-giving principle in the body of Christ.

Apollinarius’ View of Jesus

Apollinarius says, “The flesh, being dependent for its motions on some other principle of movement and action…is not of itself a complete living entity, but in order to become one enters into fusion with something else. So it united itself with the heavenly governing principle [the Logos] and was fused with it…Thus out of the moved and the mover was compounded a single living entity—not two, nor one compound of two complete, self-moving principles” (Apollinarius, “Fragment 107”).

J.N.D. Kelly, a prominent scholar of doctrinal history, writes, “The presupposition of this argument is that the divine Word was substituted for the normal human psychology in Christ.” Put differently, the humanity that was assumed in the incarnation was not a complete humanity but lacked a significant component of personhood. Apollinarius believed, then, that Jesus was only partially human.

The Orthodox Response

The teaching of Apollinarius was condemned at Antioch in 378 and 379 and by the Council of Constantinople in 381. The primary defender of theological orthodoxy was Gregory of Nazianzus, a 4th century Eastern theologian and the Archbishop of Constantinople.

He saw Apollinarius as compromising the saving work of Jesus: “If anyone has put his trust in him as a man without a human mind, he is really bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which he has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole” (“To Cledonius Against Apollinarius”).

In other words, if all of Adam was lost and ruined by the Fall, then Christ, the second Adam, must put on all that Adam possessed in order to restore human nature and live the life that Adam failed to live. These issues regarding salvation motivated Gregory to articulate a Christology faithful to the Bible.

Why Does All This Matter?

If Apollinarius is right and the “Word” replaced the human soul of Jesus, we are left wondering how Christ can be fully human. Far from lacking a normal human psychology, the Gospels depict Jesus as being completely human in the way he experienced sorrow, pain, and other genuinely human experiences. Certainly Jesus Christ was fully God, as the council of Nicea maintained, but he was also fully man. And it was his deity—as well as his humanity—that allowed him to be our perfect substitute, the mediator between God and humanity for us and for our salvation.

Originally Posted By Justin Holcolmb from

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Know Your Heretics: Pelagius

Know Your Heretics
Justin Holcomb Director of the Resurgence
Know Your Heretics series


Historical Background

In the early 5th century a debate arose between Pelagius, a British monk, and Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. They disagreed over the relationship between human nature after the Fall and saving, divine grace in Jesus Christ.

When Pelagius arrived in Rome and saw the city’s dim view of morality, he developed a reputation for being a spiritual director who urged people to reform their behavior and live lives as upstanding, moral citizens.

Pelagius’ View of Sin

Pelagius rejected the doctrines of original sin, substitutionary atonement, and justification by faith.

Pelagius emphasized unconditional free will and the ability to better oneself spiritually without grace. This was in direct contrast to Augustine, who believed that humanity was completely helpless in Adam’s sin and in desperate need of grace. Specifically, Pelagius took issue with Augustine’s prayer in his Confessions, which asked God to grant humans grace to act in accordance with his divine commands: “Grant what you command and command what you will.” (Confessions, X. 40).

Pelagius rejected the teaching of “original sin,” the results of the Fall upon humanity. According to him, Adam’s sin in no way made humans corrupt, but instead “over the years our sin gradually corrupts us, building an addiction and then holding us bound with what seems like the force of nature itself.” (Letter to Demetrias, VIII). Humans by nature have a clean slate, and it is only through voluntary sin that humans are made wicked. Potentially, then, one could live a sinless life and merit heaven.

Pelagius thought that God commanding a person to do something that he lacked the ability to do would be useless: “To call a person to something he considers impossible does him no good.” (Letter to Demetrias, I). If God called humans to live moral lives, Pelagius thought, it should be within their power to carry out such commands.

Orthodox Response

Pelagius’ error was deemed heretical in 416 by the Council of Carthage. Originally Adam, Augustine said, possessed freedom—the ability not to sin. After the Fall, all human beings participate in Adam’s sin, which renders them not able not to sin. After the mediation of divine grace in Jesus Christ humans are once again given the ability not to sin.

Augustine replied to Pelagius’ views in two treatises: On the Grace of Christ and On Original Sin. Augustine writes: “We must realize that Pelagius believes that neither our will nor our action is helped by divine aid…he believes that God does not help us to will, that he does not help us to act, that he helps us only to be able to will and to act.”(On the Grace of Christ, V.6).

Augustine saw Pelagius’ teaching to be a clear denial of Philippians 2:12-13, because Pelagius located the capacity “to will and to do” what pleases God in human nature rather than in God’s grace.”(On the Grace of Christ, V.6 and VI.7).

Why Does All This Matter?

Ignoring the consequences the Fall has on everyone leads to a diminishment of the multifaceted work of Christ. In his ministry Jesus not only bore our sins on the cross, but lived a perfect life in obedience to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit—the life that Adam failed to live—in order to restore fallen humans to their original state of grace.

It is not only through the grace of God that humans are initially saved but also through this grace that they are sustained. As Augustine put it, God “guards the weak so that by his gift the saints unfailingly choose the good and unfailingly refuse to abandon it.”(On Rebuke and Grace, 38).

Without understanding the magnitude of sin and the plight of humanity, the gracious work of Jesus for us and our salvation seems superfluous. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says: “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.”

Because of sin, humans are not naturally good—that's why we need Jesus.

Originally Posted By Justin Holcolmb from

Know Your Heretics: Sabellius

Know Your Heretics
Justin Holcomb Director of the Resurgence
Know Your Heretics series


The Historical Background

Sabellius, a third-century theologian and priest, was a proponent of modalism. Modalism is a non-Trinitarian heresy claiming that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are simply different modes of God and not distinct persons within the Godhead. Little is known about Sabellius, who was excommunicated in 220 AD, but the teaching attached to his name became infamous and is still with us today.

Sabellius’ View of God

The modalists were rightly concerned with maintaining the oneness of God as well as the full deity of Christ. However, this led them to the error of seeing any suggestion that the Son was a distinct person from the Father as creating a duality within the Godhead.

Early historian Hippolytus summarized the modalist position as one in which the names “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” did not stand for real distinctions in the Godhead, but rather mere names that described the actions of the one God at different times in history. In other words, “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit” are merely adjectives describing how the one divine Being acts and is perceived.

Sabellius used the analogy of the sun to explain his position. In the same way that the sun gives off both light and heat, so also the single divine being radiates in history in different fashions. In creation, the divine Being acts as Father; in redemption, as Son; in the lives of believers, as the Holy Spirit.

The Orthodox Response

The orthodox response to the heresy of Sabellius (and other modalists) came from Tertullian, the African theologian. In Against Praxeas, Tertullian argued that Scripture reveals that the Godhead is three who are at the same time one. He rightly considered this an essential doctrine of Christianity.

In the Sabellian modalist view, the three are not anything real, but rather just different manifestations of the one. Therefore, Tertullian proposed that we speak of the Godhead as “one substance (substantia) consisting in three persons (persona).” This terminology would serve as the basis for future Latin theology, and it is from Tertullian’s pen that the important Christian word “Trinity” (trinitas) was first inked.

Why Does All This Matter?

Sabellianism is one of the heresies in Christendom that keeps appearing again and again in different forms. Anyone who has sat in a Sunday School class and heard that God’s Tri-unity is like water in that it appears to us in three forms (liquid, steam, and ice) has been exposed to a contemporary variation of modalism. God is not one person that exists in three different forms at three different times, but three distinct persons concurrently sharing one common essence.

Modalism also reared its ugly head in the classic liberal theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher, and it is even seen today in the “Oneness” sect of Pentecostalism, which clearly denies the doctrine of the Trinity. What is at stake in the debate is not merely fancy theological terminology, but our understanding of God himself. For example, if Sabellian modalism were true, the intimate relationship that existed between the Father and the Son from all eternity (John 17) would be irrational.

Modalism undercuts the atoning work of Jesus Christ, as well. If there is only one God who works in different modes of being throughout history, one must question whether Jesus Christ was truly a man, or if he only appeared to be such, as the heresy of Docetism declares. If Jesus Christ is not fully God and fully man, then he cannot be the one mediator between God and man. It is for this reason that the heresy of Sabellian modalism must be rejected, and the biblical doctrine of the Trinity must be affirmed.

Originally Posted By Justin Holcolmb from

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reality Will Strike... One Day!

Conscience is a serpent in his breast, which bites and gnaws his heart; and he can no more avoid it, than he can fly from himself! Let not such of you as have never been tortured with its remorse, congratulate yourselves upon your happiness, for you are not innocents! Your conscience will not always sleep! It will not always lie torpid and inactive, like a snake benumbed with cold, in your breast! It will awaken you either to your conversion--or condemnation! Either the fire of God's wrath flaming from His law will enliven it in this world--to sting you with medicinal anguish; or the unquenchable fire of His vengeance in the lake of fire and brimstone will thaw it into life--and then it will horribly rage in your breast, and diffuse its tormenting poison through your whole frame! And then it will become a never-dying worm, and prey upon your hearts forever!
                                                                                      ~ Samuel Davies ~

Originally Posted in The Living Waters Newsletter June 2010 ~

Saturday, June 5, 2010

March by iSix:5 ** Click to listen to MARCH **

Know the Gospel that Paul declares... Hear it! Open your ears! Listen! (Preaching at beginning of song: Pastor Mark Driscoll / Preaching at the end of the song: Pastor John Piper / Song by ISix5: )
March by iSix:5