Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Know Your Heretics: Eutyches

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

Historical Background: Eutyches

Eutyches (378-454) was in charge of the monastery at Constantinople and was second in command, only lower than the Bishop, in terms of authority there.

Is Jesus a Blend of God & Man?
The early church taught that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures—a divine nature and a human nature.

Eutyches was guilty of over-emphasizing the fact that Jesus Christ was one person and blurred the distinction between his divine and human natures. This was opposite of Nestorius’ heresy.

About Eutyches, church historian Stephen Nichols writes: “To him Christ was a third thing (the Latin expression is tertium quid)….One new and different person fashioned out of two natures is how he liked to put it. That is a theological way of saying yellow and blue makes green.”
When asked by Florentius if he believed there were two natures in Christ, Eutyches argued that there was only one nature in Christ after the incarnation:

Florentius: “Do you or do you not admit that our Lord who is of the Virgin is consubstantial [with us] and of two natures after the incarnation?”

Eutyches: “I admit that our Lord was of two natures before the union, but after the union one nature.”

Orthodox Response: Jesus Is Fully God & Fully Man

In his Tome, Leo the Great offers a beautiful response to the thought of Eutyches: “For just as the God [deity] is not changed by his compassion, so the man [manhood] is not swallowed up by the dignity [of the Godhead].” The human nature and the divine nature in Christ remain distinct and unmixed in the incarnation so that Jesus is truly God and truly man.

Flavian, who was the Bishop of Constantinople, called a synod that met at Constantinople in 448 at which the teachings of Eutyches were deemed heretical. In the Chalcedonian Creed there are phrases directed toward Eutyches: Christ is “to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided in two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus Is Our Representative

Stephen Nichols clearly describes the problem with Eutyches’ teachings: “The problem with stressing the unity without the counterbalance of the two intact natures, as Eutyches does, is that Christ loses his human and divine identity. As such, he is not truly our representative. The Christ of Eutyches falls short of Paul’s teaching of Christ as the last Adam (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:42-49).”

The orthodox theologians of the first several centuries saw an intimate connection between the incarnation and the atoning work of Christ.

This is why Leo the Great writes:

Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality; and for the paying off of the debt belonging to our condition, inviolable nature was united with passible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, so that, as suits the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other.

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

How to Have Accountability When You Don’t Have Elders....

By Bob Thune (Friday October 8th 2010)

In my last post, I argued that church planters should not install elders until the church has clearly crossed the line from “apostolic missionary band” to “established church.” But how can you ensure appropriate accountability and community in the interim?

Accountability and community are crucial in church planting, for at least two reasons:

1) Leaders often crash and burn from lack of proper accountability.

2) Even the most type-A church planter doesn’t want to be the only guy with a target on his back. Satan, critics, and disgruntled people are going to take their shots at you. Might as well have some company.

Below are the four types of accountability you must have in the early stages of a church plant, and some suggestions on how to go about getting them, before you’ve raised up additional elders.

Moral Accountability

Someone needs to be asking you the hard questions about your marriage, your thought life, your moral integrity. Until you have elders to serve as a band of brothers in this area, you must find others to do it. When we planted our church, I set up an external advisory board of four older, godly men from other churches who met with me at least once a month for this purpose.

Financial Accountability

If you’re a church planter, you probably suck at financial administration so you should immediately recruit a team of 3-4 church members, or outside advisors, who can help oversee the financial affairs of the church. Obviously you must choose prayerfully: you want servant leaders, not power brokers who are going to try to steer the church through the checkbook.

I recruited an accountant, a banker, a pastoral intern, and a corporate lawyer from our launch team and asked them to help me oversee budgeting, expenses, and accounting. The lead elder (me) still set the direction and the financial priorities of the church. But having a team ensured that I had some accountability—and more importantly, some very competent help with the details.

Doctrinal Accountability

This is an easy one if you’re part of a network like Acts 29 that has a robust doctrinal statement. Since elders are required to guard sound doctrine (Titus 1:9), make sure your people know that you aren’t making up your theology as you go.

Leadership Accountability

This is perhaps the hardest piece of the puzzle. You need the freedom to lead the church according to the calling God has given you. But you also need to seek input from others in order to avoid becoming (or even just being perceived as) a dictator.

Instead of making major decisions in a vacuum, run them by key leaders and influencers conversationally. You’re not giving these people “veto power”—in the end, it’s still your call. But by seeking input from others and making your decisions “in the open,” you’ll gain the trust of your people and occasionally save yourself from some really bad decisions.

Church planters commonly make the mistake of caving to pressure and installing untested or unqualified elders early on in a church plant. The point of this post is to show that you can have the functions of eldership without rushing to put the structure in place. You are responsible before God to raise up and train additional elders from within your church as quickly as possible. Just don’t make the mistake of pulling the trigger too quickly. As Alexander Strauch says in his excellent book on eldership: “Better to have no elders than the wrong ones.”

Originally Posted at http://www.theresurgence.com/ 

Why Installing Elders Too Quickly Can Kill Your Church...

By Bob Thune (Saturday October 2nd 2010)

I recently met a church planter who was excited about the team God was bringing together around him: a launch team of 15 people, including 3 elders. It never dawned on him that he was making a colossal mistake.

Paul left Titus in Crete with instructions to straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town (Titus 1:5). Notice the order: first, Paul and his companions planted a church, then appointed elders. The sequence is important.

American Christianity has been greatly influenced by the “parish” model of church-planting: send a group of people from church A somewhere new to establish church B. In this model, it may make sense to have elders from the beginning. The people already know each other, the culture of the church is defined, and the support of the mother church provides a fallback in case of leadership conflict.

Most of the church planters I know are not using a parish model. They are planting missional churches: starting from scratch, leading a small band of people as missionaries into new territory, and shaping the DNA of a church from ground zero. This model of church-planting mirrors Paul’s own ministry. Like Paul, you need to plant the church before you install elders. If you install elders too early in a missional church plant, you will most likely kill your church. Here’s why:

1. A missional church must start with an “apostolic band.”

You and your launch team are not Titus on Crete. You are Paul and his compadres landing on Crete in the first place. Every missional church plant starts as an apostolic band of missionary-gatherers, then coalesces into an established church.

Statistics show that 50-60% of your launch team won’t be around in two years. That most likely includes one or two men you have in mind for eldership! If you install elders in the apostolic band stage, you risk causing chaos in your fragile community when Barnabas and Paul decide to part ways.

2. Elders are a stabilizing structure.

When you install elders, you are implicitly telling your people, “We are established now.” People begin to see your church as a “real church” instead of a fledgling church plant. If you stabilize too fast, you lose momentum and kill the mission. It’s like launching a rocket: once you’re safely headed to orbit, you can jettison your rocket boosters. But if you jettison them during liftoff, you’re in big trouble. Installing elders inside of 18 months, or under 100 people, is a very bad idea. It will keep your church from ever getting into orbit.

3. Elders must be proven leaders in the eyes of the people you have.

“But I have good, biblically qualified men,” one church planter told me. “Shouldn’t they be elders?” Have they proven themselves by gaining the respect, trust, and confidence of the people you’re leading (especially new Christians and non-Christians) and by bearing fruit in ministry? Scripture requires that elders and deacons “be tested first” (1 Tim. 3:10). This testing must take place in the current context, not a previous one.

Some critics insist that any planter who doesn’t install elders immediately is vying for power and control. Every church planting agency I’m aware of follows this practice. A potential church planter is carefully tested and approved, then allowed to lead solo (with outside accountability) until additional qualified men are raised up from within the new church.

There’s a reason wise church planting agencies follow this strategy: Satan loves to wreck churches through leadership conflict. Church planting requires a man like Paul who has the character, gifting, and persistence to shape a church where it doesn’t exist; the discernment to feed the sheep and kill the wolves; and the humility, patience, and selflessness to raise up others to shepherd the flock alongside him.

Originally Posted at http://www.theresurgence.com/