While I do eventually intend to address the subject of Creation vs. Evolution, here is a good article on the topic.
In preparing for this post, I came to the realization that I am not often presented with the chance to address the same heresy in two different time periods. At least, not in this manner, and not so clearly. Yet, this particular heresy is alive and well in our modern age, and most of us simply are not aware. I am referring, of course, to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their particular brand of heresy. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, this will be a two-part series. First, I will address the teachings of Arius of Alexandria, his role in the Council of Nicea, and the aftermath of the Council. In the second post, I will directly address the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and highlight the various ways that their doctrinal positions conflict with sound doctrine.
Definition of terms:
Presbyter: a member of the governing body of an early Christian church.
Orthodox: conforming to established doctrine especially in religion.
Heterodox: contrary to or different from an acknowledged standard, a traditional form, or an established religion.
Hypostatic Union: the combination of divine and human natures in the single person of Christ.
Eructation: an act or instance of belching.
Ecumenical Council: An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.
Catechumen: a person who receives instruction in the Christian religion in order to be baptized.
Homoousios: of one substance.
Arius of Alexandria (256 AD-336 AD) was a Presbyter in the Alexandrian Church whose teachings were controversial. He taught that doctrine must be reasonable to the human mind, or it simply was not biblical. This naturally caused issues with others around him because human reason was never meant to be the standard by which we determine biblical doctrine. (Isa. 55:9; Proverbs 3:5) According to his teachings, if it is unreasonable, it is unscriptural. Naturally, this does not bode well for various Christian doctrinal stances, not the least of which deals with the matter of miracles. If we have trouble following the will and commands of a God we do not fully understand, then what do you think would happen if He was easily understood?
It was this stance that brought him into direct conflict with figures in Church history such as Athanasius of Alexandria, who used Arius and his teaching as an epithet to describe anyone who disagreed with the Doctrine of the Trinity. This teaching was so pervasive that, by the end of the entire episode, Arianism had spread throughout Europe, the Middle East, and into Northern Africa. The impact of this particular heresy simply cannot be measured, as it is still ongoing.
The Teaching & its Refutation
Prior to the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, there had been some internal debate within the Church body about the nature of the relationship between God and Jesus. The Orthodox position had always adhered to the Doctrine of the Trinity, which stipulates:
God is one in essence and three in person:
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons
Each Person is fully God
There is only one God.
Meanwhile, there were those who held to a variety of other positions on this unique relationship, including Lucian of Antioch, Arius’ mentor. Much is unknown about Lucian’s theology, but many extant sources make the claim that Lucian was the source of Arius’ heretical teachings. In either case, Arius is the one whose name rests on this particular heresy, which is why we are discussing Arianism and not Lucianism.
As regards Jesus, Arianism teaches:
1. The son was created out of nothing; hence, he is different in essence from the Father; that he is Logos, Wisdom, Son of God, is only of grace. He is not so in himself.
2. There was a point when he did not exist; i.e., he is a finite being.
3. He was created before everything else, and through him the universe was created and is administered.
4. In the historical Christ the human element is merely the material; the soul is the Logos. The historical Christ, therefore, had no human soul.
5. Although the incarnate Logos is finite, and hence not God, he is to be worshiped, as being unspeakably exalted above all other Creatures, the immediate Creator and Governor of the universe, and the Redeemer of man.
6. The Arians adhered to the Scriptures, and were willing to employ as their own any scriptural statements of doctrine. (A Manual for Church History, p. 327).
In his own words, Arius had this to say,
Some of them say that the Son is an eructation, others that he is a production, others that he is also unbegotten. These are impieties to which we cannot listen, even though the heretics threaten us with a thousand deaths. But we say and believe and have taught, and do teach, that the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any way part of the unbegotten; and that he does not derive his subsistence from any matter; but that by his own will and counsel he has subsisted before time and before ages as perfect as God, only begotten and unchangeable, and that before he was begotten, or created, or purposed, or established, he was not. For he was not unbegotten. We are persecuted because we say that the Son has a beginning but that God is without beginning.
— Theodoret: Arius’s Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, translated in Peters’ Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, p. 41
They said that Jesus had a beginning, but God did not. This is in opposition to the Bible, which states that Jesus is God, and therefore has neither beginning nor end. Take Isaiah 9:6, for example:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.“
This verse perfectly defines Jesus’ nature. The government will be on His shoulders (Matt. 28; Dan. 7). Going beyond this, there is a term in this verse that is inescapable. In the original Hebrew, The mighty God (El Gibbor) is a title that one simply cannot miss. What is more telling is that El Gibbor is used again, just one chapter later, and this time not in reference to the Messiah, but to YHWH. Isaiah 10:21,
“The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.“
Two verses, one dealing with the Messiah, the other YHWH, and both being given the same divine title. That is not an accident, that is a clue. There is more, though. Consider Zechariah 12:10,
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.“
Pay close attention to a portion of the verse, specifically, “and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced”. Now, this is the Lord speaking through the prophet Zechariah, and He is saying that He is the one who is pierced. How can the Lord be pierced, unless He takes human form and submits Himself to our physical reality? It is simply impossible!
Next, we have Isaiah 48:12-17, in which the Lord announces rather clearly that He is the expected Messiah,
“Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.
13 Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.
14 All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them hath declared these things? The LORD hath loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans.
15 I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous.
16 Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.
17 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.“
In verse 12, the person speaking identifies Himself rather clearly. I AM he; I AM the first, I also am the last. To further cement it in your minds, though I am sure most of y’all caught it, we have two of the names attributed to both YHWH and Jesus. As if that was not enough, Jesus calls Himself I AM (John 8:58), and the First and the Last (Rev. 22:13), directly.
In verse 13, the Lord says, “Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth”. Well, when you take a look at John 1, it states that Jesus is the One who created the earth, so it becomes clear, again, that Jesus is God.
Then, there is verse 16. Thus far, the passage has been the Lord speaking. Yet, verse 16 is clearly the Messiah speaking, and what He says is that the Lord and His Spirit sent Him. This brings up a question. At which point in the passage did the perspective change from God to the Messiah? I keep looking at the passage, and seeing no difference. Clearly, it was the Lord speaking from beginning to end.
It is also worth noting that the Messiah in this verse is stating that He is eternal, given that He says He has been around since the beginning.
Finally, there is the point of worship. According to Arius, we worship Jesus, not as God, but as a super-exalted, perfect creation of God. Again, we must turn to Scripture to see why that is wrong.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.“
As you can see in verse five, the Lord plainly states that worship is reserved strictly for Him. According to both Arian and Orthodox theologies, Jesus existed by this point, and had certainly made multiple appearances, as evidenced by multiple chapters in the Book of Genesis. If He existed, and Arius was right, then why was the Lord so very explicit in reserving worship strictly for Himself? Why did He not create an exception for His first created being? This particular verse only makes sense from the Orthodox position that Jesus is God.
The Council of Nicea
In 325 AD, the Emperor Constantine I (280 AD-337 AD) called for an ecumenical council because he desired to create unity within the Church that he had recently legalized. When he heard of the conflict between Arius and the others, he saw a division forming that he sincerely did not want to take place. It was his desire to bring an end to the conflict, and find some kind of compromise between the two sides. In this, he was somewhat destined to be disappointed. While he did achieve his goal, he was very disappointed at how he arrived at it. In his opening remarks, he urged all to work toward unity and peace, saying,
“Let, then, all contentious disputation be discarded; and let us seek in the divinely-inspired word the solution of the questions at issue.”
Constantine I, an unbaptized Catechumen, was the one who presided over the opening of the Council, and did participate in some of the discussion, ultimately had very little impact on it. About all he could do was abide by the ultimate findings of the Council. From the beginning, Arius and his supporters, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Secundus of Ptolemais, were forced into the defensive. They were required to defend their teachings, and were ultimately unable to do so convincingly. This led to Arius’ teachings being declared anathema.
When all was said and done, the Council had formulated the Nicene Creed, which Arius and two of his followers refused to sign. As a result, they were excommunicated. Taking things a step further, Emperor Constantine exiled them, and ordered all copies of Arius’ book, Thalia, burned.
While Constantine I had initially held to the findings of the Council, he did ultimately change his mind. At the urging of his sister, he threw his support behind the Arians. For a time, Arians enjoyed tremendous political power in the Empire, and the Orthodox view was declared anathema. Eusebius of Caesarea, long known to be the first Church historian, spent a time in exile due to this incident.
Constantine attempted to mend the breach between the two sides, but Arius died before he could be readmitted to the Church. To the day he died, he absolutely refused to renounce his heretical teachings.
In the end, this ecumenical council did much for us today. Were it not for Arius and his teachings, many of the doctrines we know as Truth today would not have been defined. It has also given us the tools we need to fight against a similar heresy, the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Thus far, I have gone over some of the core beliefs of Gnosticism, shown you some of the ways that it conflicts with Scripture, and highlighted some of the history involved. We have looked at the Nag Hammadi library, the Corpus Hermeticum, and have even taken a glance at a more modern example of Gnosticism known as “Mystic Christianity”. Now, we need to take a closer look and bring it into focus by showing who they are.
Who are they?
I will begin with a list of the various forms of Gnosticism that have shown up throughout history, along with a brief synopsis of their history and particular belief. Much of it will be unfamiliar, but there will be the odd name here and there that you just might recognize. Do note that this list will not be exhaustive, as the number of Gnostic groups that have sprung up in history is tremendous. If this is a subject that happens to catch your attention, by all means, chase down the information.
Valentinians: Valentinus (100 AD-155 AD) was a second century mystic and poet, who placed great importance in Gnosis. It was for this reason that he was labeled “Gnostic”. He was a disciple of the teacher Theudas who had supposedly been a disciple of Paul. He made the claim that Theudas taught him secret wisdom that Paul had taught privately to those in his inner circle.
According to the teachings of Valentinus, there were esoteric teachings which originated from Jesus who passed them on in secret. When Jesus spoke in public, he used parables that did not disclose his complete teachings; choosing to pass them on privately to His Disciples. He referred to this when he said: “The knowledge about the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but to the rest it comes by means of parables so that they may look but not see and listen but not understand.”(Luke 8:9-10; Ireneus Against Heresies 1:3:1). Similarly, when Paul encountered the risen Lord in a vision (2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Acts 9:9-10), he received the secret teaching from him. Valentinus claimed that he learned this secret teaching from Theudas.
Sethianism: This particular Gnostic sect hails from Egypt and Judea. While some have suggested that they are a pre-Christian Gnostic sect, there are those who would argue that they are also a true Gnostic Christian group.
The Seth that they venerate is Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth, who was born after Cain murdered Abel. He is typically regarded as God’s replacement for Abel, and seen as the father of all mankind, given that he is the direct ancestor of Noah.
According to Jewish texts, dating between the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, Adam gave esoteric knowledge to Seth that would eventually form the basis for Kabbalah, the Gnostic form of Judaism. The Book of the Zohar, a book on Jewish mysticism, refers to Seth as the “ancestor of all the tzadikkim” (righteous ones). (Zohar 1:36b)
While their belief structure is primarily Judaic, they also adhere to the standard Gnostic theology, with strong Platonic influence. They regard Seth as being a divine incarnation along the same lines as Jesus, and see his descendants as making up a higher elect within humanity. It is worth noting that Seth is listed as one of Jesus’ ancestors.
Naassene: Known only through the works of Hippolytus, this is believed to have been the earliest Gnostic sect to exist. This sect taught that there were three levels of Man:
1. Material, or Bound: unbelievers held captive solely by physical reality.
2. Psychic, or the Called: ordinary Christians.
3. Spiritual, or the Elect: the few chosen Naassenes.
They taught that the way to enlightenment lay with Gnosis and celibacy, possibly indicating why they did not last very long. There is very little known about the Naassenes, except that their theology was regarded as so close to the teachings of Jesus, they had to be the first to part ways with what would become orthodoxy. In spite of this, what could be drawn out from Hippolytus’ work shows the standard “material existence bad, spiritual existence good” beliefs of the other Gnostic religions.
How to fight them.
Part of me says, “Don’t bother.” The reason why is that they have taken Scripture and twisted it into such a way as to support their idea, and there is not a single thing you will say that will change their mind until they are genuinely ready to listen. At best, you can use the discussion as an opportunity to demonstrate the folly of this belief for the audience, if there is one.
That being said, should you choose to engage a Gnostic, knowledge is power. The more you know about the true history, and the philosophy, the better. I strongly recommend the following books, to further help:
“The Gnostic Gospels”, by Elaine Pagels
“The Fifth Gospel?”, by Nicholas Perrin
“Against Heresies”, by Irenaeus of Lyons
“The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics”, by Jean Doresse
These were of tremendous use in this series, and provided a lot of valuable information. As always, I encourage you to do your own research, and draw your own conclusions.
[Note: On Perrin’s, “The Fifth Gospel?”, this is not a book, it is an article in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 49/1 (March 2006) 67–80]
Above all else, trust that the Lord will provide you with what you need. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:19, “do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” Remember to trust Lord Jesus, and not yourself. All else will flow from there.
My wife brought this story to my attention yesterday, and I knew that I had to write about it. If you claim to be Christian, and pro-choice, a position that will never cease to baffle me, then this is something that I think might bring the whole issue more into focus for you. You are literally standing on the same side as Satan. In standing for unrestricted access to abortion, you are siding with the enemies of the Almighty God you claim to follow, and find nothing odd about it.
Consider the following, in the State of Missouri the law requires a three day waiting period for an abortion. The law also requires that someone seeking an abortion must be given the opportunity to see an ultrasound of the baby, must be given the opportunity to hear the baby’s heartbeat, and must be given literature that states that human life begins at conception. The obvious intent, of course, is to discourage women from having an abortion, or at the very least, allow them to make a fully informed decision. Sadly, this means that many women will have no excuse when they must stand before the Lord, and answer for shedding innocent blood.
In the case presented here, what we have is a situation where a member of a Satanic temple has challenged the law, claiming that it violates her religious freedom because she neither wanted the literature, the doppler/ultrasound, nor the waiting period. Let me say this again. A worshiper of SATAN wants to change Missouri law so that it would be easier for her to murder her unborn baby.
Have any of you ever wondered at the odd turn of events when Satanists and Christians might stand on the same side of an issue?! If I’m not mistaken, Scripture has a lot to say about this, and the basic message is: DON’T!!! How much clearer can this be? If it is something that Satanists want so badly they’re going to fight it out in open court, then it is something we ought to be fighting against! Rather than backing their play, the Children of Almighty God ought to be in there facing off against them!!!
Not only did Jesus speak to this, but so did Paul, James, Peter, and all the rest. Consider 2 Corinthians 6:14,
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
What does it mean to be yoked with someone? It means to be in relationship with them, to be bound to them, to have common cause with them. This applies just as much in marriage relationships as it does in championing a political cause; in this case, a cause in which people wish to murder the weakest among us in the name of Satan! How far have we fallen as a society when Satan no longer feels the need to hide his activities?! Now, I am neither making things up, nor am I imagining things. These people genuinely worship Satan, and I don’t mean in the metaphorical sense, as they claim. I mean in the literal, they-have-knowingly-forsaken-Almighty-God sense. What does God say about people like them? Isaiah 5:20, KJV,
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Does this mean that we cannot be friends with unbelievers? No. What it means is that we must avoid any entanglements with people who would lead us away from God, and this includes supporting any political ideologies that violate the Laws of God. What it also means is that the Lord has something in mind for those who make a free-will, conscious decision to defy Him at every turn. You do not want to get caught in the crossfire when that happens, and it will.
It is because of this that I have, on more than one occasion, turned my back on longtime friends, and even family, for the sake of my God. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37-39,
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Too many people, in behaving in a manner that they think is more Christ-like, are compromising the Gospel Truth that they are charged with sharing with the world. The end result is that they will find themselves compromised and in a position where they must choose between their God, and His Enemy. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus speaks to just how far we must be willing to go to follow Him,
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
To make things a bit more clear, consider Matthew 7:21-23,
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Now, let us bring this entire message together. We are COMMANDED to love God with all our hearts, our minds, and our spirits. We are COMMANDED to chuck it all in, and follow Him, even if it means that the world hates us, curses us, and seeks to kill us. We are COMMANDED to oppose that which God opposes, and support that which God supports, and He has NEVER been ambiguous about ANY of this. We need only pick up a Bible, and see what it is that God loves, and what He hates, and take our cues from that. Yet, some would ignore these facts, and stand in support of people who dedicate their lives to doing what God hates and what Satan loves! What exactly is it that we are missing here?! How did we, as a society, get to the point where we turn a blind eye to the wanton, murderous sacrifice of babies, and still have the temerity to call ourselves civilized?!
Here is my challenge to you, the pro-choice Christian. You have a decision to make, and neutrality is not an option. Do you wish to BE a Christian, to follow the commands of your Almighty God, or do you wish to turn your back on Him, and become a friend to the world? Take your time, choose wisely, this is literally for all of the marbles.
I came across this very interesting article, and thought that I ought to weigh in on this. Consider this one of my rare forays into politics, though I feel like I should eventually incorporate more political commentary into my work. Let’s see what the future holds, shall we? (Comment below if you think I should make politics a more prominent part of my ministry efforts.)
Here, we have a situation in which a presumably grown woman chooses to behave in a childish manner, and berate and humiliate an old man in public. Why? Because she did not like the hat he was wearing, and what she thinks it represents. Not only does she do this, but she goes so far as to issue threats against him and his family, and encourage others to cause him harm should they see him in public. In the South, some might suggest that she needs a dose of “act right”, but that’s neither here nor there. She got that dose through the events that followed.
While her actions and attitude are, to me, deeply offensive and heinous, what I felt more than anything was amusement and a little bit of sympathy. My wife and I often comment that bad things that happen right after we have behaved in a sinful manner, fall into the category of “because God don’t like ugly”. What this poor, dense, idiot suffered right after what she did was the natural result of her actions, because God don’t like ugly.
Now, why would I feel a touch of sympathy? Well, think back on your own childhood, and some of the well-earned butt whoopins you got. When you see someone else receiving a well-earned butt whoopin, do you not feel a twinge of sympathy? This woman got a well-earned butt whoopin, and I felt a twinge of sympathy. No worries, though, it did not last long.
Now, let’s take a look at this situation. In her haste to pass judgement on this man, she declares him a Nazi. In the Book of Matthew, chapter 7, Jesus teaches that we are to avoid being judgemental. This does not remove from us the right to judge, just puts into our minds the idea that we ought to reserve judgement until we have all of the facts. (To understand the distinction, I refer you to a previous post of mine entitled, “Is Matthew 7:1 the most misrepresented verse?”)
She went against this principle by first assuming that he is a racist, second by calling him a Nazi without realizing that he is actually a Jew, and third, by turning it into a public spectacle in the real world as well as on the internet. Of course, because we are humans and prone to being prideful and hypocritical, she did not stop there.
After he threatened to call the cops, she left. To any normal person, that should have been enough. Yet, she had to double down on her own prideful stupidity and return to the scene of the crime, with the expressed intent of heaping more verbal abuse on the poor man.
As if that was not enough, she chose to follow it up by chronicling the entire thing on her Facebook page, highlighting part of the reason why I deactivated my Facebook account years ago, and still avoid social media like the plague. It is through her social media virtue signaling that God gave her that well-earned butt whoopin, and she asked for it.
Someone catches on to her attempt to dox this poor man, and in turn doxes her. As it turns out, the idiot woman not only shows who her husband is, but also shows who his employer is. The someone who doxed our perpetrator contacted her husband’s employer and brings the whole mess to their attention, which leads to her husband being fired. It would seem that the employer does not appreciate having their brand name linked to politically motivated violence and criminal behavior, and rightly so.
In poorly choosing her battles that day, not only does this poor idiot end her husband’s employment, but she is forced to resign her own position with the Bayshore Progressive Democrats (BPD) the next day. Here’s what the BPD had to say after accepting her resignation, “From the standpoint of BPD, this matter is now closed. Bayshore Progressive Democrats seeks a world that works for everyone, where all humans have a chance to realize their full potential and to live lives of dignity. Harassment and abuse are inconsistent with these values, and we reject the use of such tactics in civil society.” I, for one, could not agree more, and I know that most of us on the Right espouse much the same sentiment.
In the end, this woman had every opportunity to take the high road and behave in a mature manner. What she chose to do was undertake a course of action that not only negatively impacted her own life, but the lives of her family. In issuing threats against someone simply for holding political beliefs that run counter to her own, she has managed to cause severe harm to two careers, two employers, and the welfare and wellbeing of multiple families. Folks, this is what stubborn pride and stupidity will net you if you are not careful and considerate of what you say. As Jesus once said, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” (Matt. 15:11, KJV)
I will finish with this. As I revile and condemn what this woman said and did, I also revile and condemn any who have issued threats against her and her family. These are not actions consistent with the teachings of our Lord and Savior, and we must never lose sight of what He has taught regarding matters such as these. If you profess faith and trust in Jesus, and yet threaten people like this woman, then you defame the name of our Lord, and that counts as taking the Lord’s name in vain. Repent, I beg of you.
Here is the link to the story:
[Correction: When originally reading this article, I missed the part that said she had been fired from her actual employer, Gryphon Stringed Instruments, in addition to being forced to resign her position from BPD.]
Last night, my wife and I took the opportunity to attend a pre-screening of the new movie, “Unplanned”. For those who don’t know, this movie tells the story of former Planned Parenthood director, Abby Johnson, and how she went from pro-choice to pro-life.
A few thoughts. First, this movie doesn’t deserve one bit of the R rating it was given, though I definitely think the makers of this movie ought to regard that as a badge of honor. They made a movie that was so clean, it made most TV shows from the 50’s and 60’s look like the trash we find today, and still managed to pick up an R rating. That is nothing short of impressive.
Second, the production value of the movie was surprisingly good for Pure Flix. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pure Flix and what they do, but they are not attracting the same caliber of actor as Hollywood. Given the blatantly satanic nature of virtually everything Hollywood and the music industry produces, I would suggest that is a good thing.
Third, when the movie was over and we came out, there were representatives from several pro-life organizations waiting to speak with us and share information. Included in that was information regarding a “Declaration of Life” that Focus on the Family is inviting people to sign. This declaration will later be presented to Congress.
Here is the text, in case any are curious:
A Declaration for Life
As our nation nears the terrible milestone of 50 years of legalized abortion—an era that has robbed an estimated 60 million Americans of their very right to life—we lament the extermination of an entire generation of talent, productivity, and potential. Now we face aggressive efforts to even expand this tragic practice. This is not progressive or compassionate; it is madness. Therefore …
WE PROCLAIM that abortion at any stage of development represents the taking of a human life. Science, reason, and common sense attest to this. Because this is true, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must extend to babies in the womb just as much as to every other citizen.
WE EMBRACE the indisputable scientific reality that life in the womb is worthy of protection from the moment of conception. The same DNA and genetic markers that testify to our uniqueness at birth are also present when we are conceived. Life in the womb is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Sacred scripture and prenatal science both proclaim this.
WE DECLARE that legalized abortion is wholly incompatible with the virtues of compassion, freedom, and equality that characterize a healthy and just society. As state legislatures expand abortion up to the moment of birth and some leaders advocate outright infanticide, our culture’s decades-long embrace of legalized abortion has reached a tragic new low point.
THEREFORE, as concerned citizens, we are reinforcing our commitment to speak up on behalf of the most vulnerable among us. It is imperative that churches, individuals, and communities—people of faith and all people of goodwill—work together to end this tragedy.
WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, do hereby affirm our commitment to: 1) advocate for pro-life legislation at the state level, including a ban on late-term abortions and those targeting babies on the basis of disability, sex or race; 2) promote the end of government funding of the abortion industry; 3) vote for candidates who respect the sanctity of life; 4) urge the appointment of constitutionalist judges who will protect the fundamental right to life; 5) support both women in unplanned pregnancies and their babies through the good work of Pregnancy Resource Centers; 6) encourage and promote the beauty of adoption; and 7) pray fervently for a nationwide reawakening to the value and sanctity of every human life.
Until that day comes, we will continue to push back against the culture of death. This is the moment we unite with one voice and proclaim, “No more.”
We are pro-life.
My sincere hope is that so many will sign it that people have to sit up and take notice. I also hope that so many people go to see this movie that there is standing room only.
Here is the link:
This particular work hit my radar during a conversation with my younger sister. Like me, she is a lapsed Methodist, and like me, she strayed into a purely secular life after leaving the Church. The only difference between us is that I finally found Jesus, and she’s still mired in Sin. While neither of us intend to ever return to the UMC, based on our own reasons, I am still a firm believer in Jesus, and she is not. I have not ceased in praying for her, her husband, and their son. May they find their way back to the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and may my nephew be brought up knowing the Lord.
What is the Corpus Hermeticum?
The Hermetica is a volume of work dating back to the Second Century. It takes the form of a series of dialogues between an instructor (Hermes Trismegistus) and his students, during which he enlightens them about the cosmos, the divine, the mind, and nature. Among the topics he covers, he includes astrology and alchemy, reincarnation, along with various related topics.
The entire collection is believed to have originated with the school of Ammonius Saccas, and is believed to have once been under the care of Michael Psellus, as the oldest known copies are 14th Century manuscripts. All of these works are remnants of the syncretic, intellectualized paganism of their era, a cultural movement that also included the Neoplatonic philosophies of the Greco-Roman mystery religions, late Orphic literature and which also influenced the Gnostic versions of the Abrahamic religions.
What does it teach?
While the teachings found in the Hermetica are heavily influenced by Judaism, like Gnosticism, it does teach that our universe was not created by the Supreme Being, but rather the Demiurge. Extant texts also focus on the oneness and goodness of God, the purification of the soul, and support various pagan practices like the veneration of images. Of course, their ultimate goal is spiritual enlightenment, but they tend to take a more practical approach.
“Seeing within myself an immaterial vision that came from the mercy of God, I went out of myself into an immortal body, and now I am not what I was before. I have been born in mind!” ( )
In this quote, what is apparent is a subtle reminder that the physical realm is something we must want to leave behind. The idea is to evolve beyond the physical, and find freedom, happiness, and enlightenment in the spiritual realm.
Another thing that the Corpus teaches is that there is one original religion, that all other religions contain a piece of that original religion, and that the Corpus contains the tenets from that faith. It also teaches that Jesus was not so much THE Son of God, as He was A Son of God. Just like Gnosticism, enlightenment leads to Salvation, which elevates us to the level of gods, thereby negating Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross by rendering it pointless. If we can achieve Salvation through Gnosis, then why did He need to die on the Cross for us?
This particular book is not a part of the Corpus, but was so very clearly influenced by it that it bore mentioning as a modern example. A few years back, I was exploring an old secondhand book shop and stumbled across this very interesting book. As it turns out, this book was the compiled collection of 12 lessons written by a man using the pseudonym “Yogi Ramacharaka”, but whose real name was William Walker Atkinson.
These lessons were published in the early 1900’s, and can still be found today. The quotes I’ll be providing in this and any future posts come from a pdf copy I downloaded for free. That is exactly how pervasive these heretical teachings are, and illustrates how easily the world gravitates toward Satan.
The book maintains that John the Baptist and Jesus were both Master Adepts and Occult Masters of the Essenic Brotherhood, and that the reason why John objected to baptizing Jesus had to do with the fact that He outranked him in the order. (Note that the Essenic sect of Judaism was an ascetic branch that lived near the Dead Sea, and were likely the authors of the Dead Sea scrolls. The Essenes lived a monastic life, avoiding life in Jerusalem, in favor of a cloistered one in which they constantly studied Scripture and served God.) It goes on to state:
“The Essenes believed in, and taught the doctrine of Reincarnation; the Immanence of God; and many other Occult Truths, the traces of which appear constantly in the Christian Teachings, as we shall see as we progress with these lessons. Through its Exalted Brother, John the Baptist, the Order passed on its teaching to the early Christian Church, thus grafting itself permanently upon a new religious growth, newly appearing on the scene. And the transplanted branches are still there!”
It can be plainly seen that “Mystic Christianity” teaches a form of Gnostic Hermeticism, which has managed to find its way into the modern age.
“Of course, the true history of the real connection between the Essenes and Christianity is to be found only in the traditions of the Essenes and other ancient Mystic Orders, much of which has never been printed, but which has passed down from teacher to pupil over the centuries even unto this day, among Occult Fraternities.”
It is also worth noting that there is no historical evidence to support the idea that these are the things that the Essenes believed. So little is known about them, but what is known is that they were ascetics who taught a very strict and severe form of Judaism, which has never believed in reincarnation. As for the Gnostic form of Judaism, Kabbalah, there is simply too much to be covered in this post. I may address it in a future post.
According to the Corpus Hermeticum, the Demiurge created the universe. It also insists that it contains the tenets of the world’s oldest and original religion. It seeks to justify both through Scripture, as well as outside sources. The fact of the matter is that this could not be farther from the truth.
This body of works actually teaches things that are absolutely contrary to what the Bible teaches, such as Gnosticism and Hermeticism. The challenge is not in proving that the teachings contained run counter to biblical doctrine, but rather in convincing adherents of this fact.
The truly funny part is that they will accuse the Church fathers of hiding the truth, in order to cement their positions of power, all while seeking to push an obvious fraud written centuries after Jesus, in an effort to subvert His effort to bring Salvation to Mankind.
In part four, we will explore the various ways in which we can combat the influences of Gnosticism, some of the different types of historical Gnosticism, and the Scriptural arguments against Gnosticism.
Discovered near the Upper-Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi, the Gnostic Gospels (also known as the Nag Hammadi library, or the Nag Hammadi Codicies) have managed to capture imaginations, and generate heated debate over what biblical canon ought to be, what it is, and why it exists in its current form. This collection is made up of 13 leather-bound Codicies, and contains 52 separate works, most of which are Gnostic treatises. Of the parts that are not, there are three works that are part of the Corpus Hermeticus, and a partially rewritten version of Plato’s “Republic”, complete with Gnostic themes that had not existed prior.
Since their discovery, much of the debate that has surrounded them has focused on whether or not they are to be considered biblical canon. For the majority of Christians, they simply are not considered Scripture for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they are inconsistent with the actual biblical canon. In this post, we will explore why they are inconsistent, and hopefully dispel a few of the more interesting conspiracy theories.
In 1945, a man named Muhammad Ali and his brother were digging for fertilizer near the town of Nag Hammadi, when they unearthed a sealed clay jar. Though they were initially hesitant to open it, fearing that it might contain a Jinn (a type of Arabic demon, and where we get the English word “genie”), they were amazed to find the library carefully hidden within.
Rather than turn it over to local authorities, they chose to hang on to the library, in the hope that they would be able to get a really good price for each piece. The brothers took it home, and kept it there.
Through a series of events, virtually all of the library was eventually acquired by the Egyptian government, and is presently housed in a museum in Cairo. Of the parts that did not make it there, an unknown number were burned by Muhammad Ali’s mother, who feared that the codicies might cause too much trouble, and another part was eventually sold to an organization in the Netherlands, after it had been unsuccessfully offered for sale in the U.S.
Though the Nag Hammadi library was written in Coptic, some linguists have suggested that it had been translated to Coptic from Syriac, based on the wording of certain works, like the Gospel of Thomas. The prevailing scholarly opinion is that it was originally written in Greek, but there is a strong case to be made for a Syriac origin.
In his essay, “The Fifth Gospel?”, for example, Nicholas Perrin points to linguistic analysis to suggest that the Gnostic Gospels were in fact Second Century Syriac documents, rather than First Century Judean. He says, “As I have argued more fully elsewhere, the evidence seems to show that the Coptic
gospel is not so much a witness to the historical Jesus, but instead a witness
to early Syriac Christianity. Following a linguistic analysis of the Coptic collection, with particular attention to the use of catchwords, it appears that
Thomas was not written—per the standard and prevailing assumption—in Greek, as an evolving sayings collection, dating back to the first or early second century. Instead, it seems that our sayings gospel was written in Syriac, as a piece, showing dependence on the first Syriac gospel record,
Tatian’s Diatessaron (c. ad 173).”
A page from Perrin’s “The Fifth Gospel?” showing the comparison between the Gospel of Thomas, the Diatessaron (a Second Century Syriac harmonization of the Synoptic Gospels) , and Scripture.
According to Perrin, the wording in the Gospel of Thomas is more reminiscent of the Diatessaron than the actual Gospel accounts, suggesting that the Gospel of Thomas was derived from the Diatessaron, not from the Synoptic Gospels. What this means for the Gnostic Gospels is that they may well have been written in the wrong time and place, with the wrong content, to be Scripture.
While the Gnostic Gospels themselves were physically dated to the Fifth Century, it is the materials contained within that were dated to the Second Century. This would imply that the Gospel of Thomas was written in the Second Century, never mind the fact that he is not believed to have survived to the turn of the century. Historians place him in India in the late 70’s when he died, yet, the Gospel of Thomas is dated to somewhere between 120-150 AD. That disparity is rather difficult to ignore.
Do bear in mind that I’ve only chosen to focus my attention on one small portion of the overall library because it is so big a detailed analysis would end up becoming a series of its own. The idea is not out of the question, but for now, I plan on sticking with the more skin-deep approach. I trust that the person reading this is more than capable of doing their own research.
Going beyond the age of the documents, there are also the contents to be considered. What the Gospel of Thomas contains is a list of sayings attributed to Jesus throughout His ministry. Some are correct, others only partially so, and most find absolutely no correlation with what is found in the Synoptic Gospels. It runs the full gamut of credibility, however, it also completely lacks a narrative.
While some have suggested that the Gospel of Thomas is as old as the document commonly referred to as “Q”, the fact of the matter is that one would be hard pressed to make the case given the similarities between it and the Diatessaron.
Here are a few examples of what is found in the Gospel of Thomas:
#3. Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
#7. Jesus said, “Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human.”
#9. Jesus said, “Look, the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered (them). Some fell on the road, and the birds came and gathered them. Others fell on rock, and they didn’t take root in the soil and didn’t produce heads of grain. Others fell on thorns, and they choked the seeds and worms ate them. And others fell on good soil, and it produced a good crop: it yielded sixty per measure and one hundred twenty per measure.” (Similar to the Parable of the Sower)
Note that much of 14 appears to be the very characterization of Gnosticism, while one small portion actually pertains to something Jesus said. This is an example of what I was saying. It is not difficult to insert an outside influence into Scripture and make it sound good. What simply does not help is that people today seem to be unwilling to sit down and engage with Scripture. People do not want to learn, and will be easily duped when someone comes along with heretical teaching that sounds similar to some half-remembered verse they heard in Sunday school.
How They Fail the Test
In my post on what constitutes heresy, I made the point that biblical teaching must be consistent with what is found in the Bible. The Bible is, in and of itself, the final judge of what is Scripture and what is not. Each of the books in Scripture find corroboration with the other books. Both Testaments support each other, with high degrees of agreement. Anything that does not mesh with this system is not to be considered Scripture. This is why the Gnostic Gospels fail as Scripture. Gnosticism is not biblically supported, it is actually proved false by it.
In Part 3, we will take a look at the Corpus Hermeticus.
As I have already covered one heretical system, Mormonism, we will go ahead and count this as the second post in the series. This post will cover a heresy so ancient Paul was refuting it in his epistles, and so incidious we can still find it hiding in plain sight in most mainstream Denominations today: Gnosticism.
To begin, here are a couple of definitions, as ever, courtesy of Merriam-Webster:
Gnosticism (γνωστικός, pronounced gnostikos): the thought and practice especially of various cults of late pre-Christian and early Christian centuries distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through gnosis.
Gnosis (γνῶσις): esoteric knowledge of spiritual truth held by the ancient Gnostics to be essential to salvation.
[Note: Merriam-Webster definitions do not include the words in the original languages. The original Greek provided comes courtesy of Strong’s Concordance.]
This definition is more than a little oversimplified out of necessity, as the topic of Gnosticism is a far-reaching topic, one with a history that begins two centuries before Jesus, and continues at least two centuries after. During the course of this post, we will take a stroll through the history of Christian Gnosticism, and cover some of the beliefs, with only a nod toward the thinkers who pre-date Jesus, and deal with its impact on modern theology. More will be covered in later posts as there is simply too much information for one post. As with my series on Mormonism, this will likely take up three or four posts.
In The Beginning…
The actual Greek movement, known as Gnosticism, is believed to have begun in the Second Century. This movement incorporated aspects of Greek philosophy and Judeo-Christian Scripture, turning it into an amalgamation of the two.
The core beliefs of Gnosticism are as follows:
- Physical existence is evil, and the non-material, spirit-realm is good.
- There is an unknowable God, who gave rise to many lesser spirit beings called Aeons.
- The creator of the (physical) universe is not the supreme god, but an inferior and evil spirit known as the Demiurge.
- Gnosticism does not deal with “sin”, only ignorance.
- To achieve salvation, one needs gnosis.
This branch of Platonic philosophy emerged in the Third Century, and owes it’s influences to philosophers such as Ammonious Saccas, and Plotonus (204-270 AD). Their influence can be seen in the works of the Nag Hammadi library, and the Corpus Hermeticus, all of which incorporates the idea that physical reality is evil, that spiritual existence is good, and that one may only be saved by the possession of special, hidden knowledge. A modern example of Christian Gnosticism would be the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who believe that Jesus’ resurrection was not a physical one, but rather a spiritual one.
This system doesn’t so much center around a set of ideas, as it does a series of thinkers. From Plotinus to Porphyry, Iamblicus, and a few others, they all had an influence on both Hellenistic Greece and early Christianity. It was so influential that Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scholars were discussing Neoplatonism for centuries beyond, and they still are, to a certain extent.
When I was in my early twenties, I had occasion to go live with my grandparents while I was trying to get myself established. My step-grandmother is a Wiccan, and my grandfather was Gnostic. I’d never heard the term before, so I had assumed he meant “agnostic”. Only now, that I’ve had the chance to study Gnosticism, has it occurred to me that he was a Gnostic. In hindsight, I can remember that he told me that sin is not what we were taught it is, but rather another word for ignorance. I did not know any better, so I did not think to ask too many questions. In hindsight, I realize that I should have.
While there are true Gnostics to be found in Pagan circles, we must contend primarily with the Christian Gnostics. To varying degrees, Gnosticism has either infiltrated our doctrines and theology, or it is found at the root of our doctrine and theology. Mormonism, for example, has a very strong Gnostic streak through it. The LDS church teaches that physical existence is evil, that spiritual existence is good, and that salvation and exultation are found in the special knowledge entrusted only to Joseph Smith, Jr., and his followers. In fact, if you are not reading his translation of the Bible, you are likely reading the wrong book altogether. Do not forget that the LDS Articles of Faith state that the Bible is the Word of God, so long as it is translated correctly.
Likewise, any church that teaches that physical existence is evil, that only spiritual existence is good, and/or anything else in line with the teachings of Gnosticism, is just as guilty as the Mormons. If you are teaching this, stop! It is heresy! Every time you declare the world to be evil, without making the distinction between the world of Man, and the planet we live on, you are declaring evil what Jesus declared “Good” on the sixth day of creation! I can well imagine He might have something to say about that.
A Lesser God?
According to their beliefs, Gnosticism teaches that our universe was created by an evil being known as the Demiurge. It also teaches that the Demiurge is not the Most High God, but rather a lesser god who only claims to be the Most High God. Additionally, it teaches that Jesus was sent by the Most High God to essentially fix what is wrong with physical existence. None of this is borne out in Scripture, but they have that covered.
Sin is Sin
According to Gnostic teachings, sin is nothing more than ignorance, and they believe that sin is only mitigated through the acquisition of esoteric knowledge. In other words, salvation comes only through study, meditation, and prayer, and not through faith or even works. It’s worth noting that some scholars also find a heavy Buddhist influence in Gnosticism, in case any of you were wondering.
In order to support their position, they go to great lengths to reinterpret Scripture, and turn it into a mangled version of itself. For example, I once debated a Gnostic who claimed that the Torah was not a historical record, but rather a coded message based on the deeper meanings of the early proto-Hebraic language, and that it fully supported Gnosticism. He also claimed that there is no connection between the Old Testament and the New, especially where Jesus’ teachings were concerned.
While Hebrew does have shades of meaning to the language, so much so that a lot of subtext does not make it into most English language translations, what he was proposing was so utterly ridiculous and contrary to thousands of years worth of Judeo-Christian scholarship that it absolutely left me wondering if he was actually joking. Sadly, I was to learn that he was absolutely sincere about what he was saying.
Each and every Scriptural point I made against his position, and there are many to be made, was greeted with a linguistic deconstruction of the Scriptural reference in ways that simply twisted it beyond recognition. Even when I pointed to passages where Jesus Himself was quoting directly from the Torah in the traditionally understood context, he responded by saying that it could not be the right interpretation because (insert linguistic breakdown here). He was so slippery, it was difficult to nail down an effective argument.
What I did find a bit effective, when dealing with the topic of sin, was the whole of the Tanakh. Even if they dismiss the Torah, you still have the Nevi’im (prophets) to work with, as well as the Kituvim (writings). Isaiah, for example, spoke extensively on the topic of sin, and how the Lord defined it. (Isaiah 1 for example) It is contextually defined in Scripture as the intentional separation of Man from God, through the violation of His Mitzvot (Commandments).
As Jesus came to stand as propitiation for the Sin of Mankind, any system that offers up Salvation but avoids the topics of Sin and the Wrath of God is easily and demonstrably false. That is just one of the crimes for which Gnosticism is guilty, there are more. The Gnostics have caused no end of problems for the Church, and we cannot be lax in our dealings with their heresy.
Coming up in Part II, The Gnostic Gospels, we will cover the history and teachings of this collection of heretical works.
“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 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)
[Note: For this post, we will need to define a few terms, so that we are all on the same page. Each definition presented comes courtesy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the dictionary I tend to use most often, so if any wish to take issue with the definitions I have presented, take it up with the people who compile the dictionary, and not this guy.]
Heresy: adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma
Dogma: a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church
In Christian terms, a heresy is a false teaching that contradicts what is found in the Bible. A person who teaches or believes such teachings is known as a heretic. Any Church doctrine, policy, practice, or teaching is heretical if it does not find justification in Scripture. Examples of heresy found within the Christian realm would be Arianism, Modelism (Sebellianism), Gnosticism, Decisionism, and the Prosperity Gospel. These are doctrines and teachings for which there is little to no Scriptural basis, as they either deny the Triune nature of God, the deity of Jesus, other essential Christian Doctrines and/or Jesus’ teachings in whole, or in part. In this post, we will take a look at what constitutes heresy, and maybe dispel a few myths that might be associated.
Where to Begin?
This post will be the beginning of a series on the various heretical teachings that can be found out there. Admittedly, I have already covered one such heresy, Mormonism, but that is just one of a whole host of heresies that the Church as whole has been unable to shake. As such, I will not be going into tremendous detail relating to the specific heretical teachings in this post, just giving a basic overview. While the names of some of these teachings might not be very familiar to some of you, their modern equivalents will ring more than a few bells, and my hope is that you will come away with more information with which you can use to disarm any arguments. Jesus did warn us about false prophets, false doctrines, and false teachers (Matt. 7:15-20), and these constitute some of the most dangerous of them.
To begin, we will discuss what the word Heresy means. It originates from the Greek word αἵρεσις (airesis), which means “choice, opinion” (Strong’s Greek Concordance #139). While the word did not originally carry the negative connotation it has been given today, the Church was beset early on by a variety of disparate and patently false ideas and teachings that ran counter to Orthodoxy. Though it was never their original intent to do so, these various teachings forced the early Church to deal with these heresies by answering the questions that arose from their teachings. One example of this is the Council of Nicea.
The Council of Nicea (325 A.D.)
This famous ecumenical council is the go-to for many anti-Christian critics when they want to attack the Doctrine of the Trinity, as well as the age and authorship of the Gospel accounts. They also erroneously insist that the Council named Christianity as the official state religion of the Roman Empire, at the direction of Emperor Constantine. (This actually took place roughly 55 years later, in 380 A.D., under Emperor Theodosius I with the Edict of Thessalonica.) I have lost count of the number of times a Unitarian or an Atheist has gleefully said to me, “You do know that the New Testament was written in the Third Century, right?” Sadly, this historically unsupported lie is really difficult to uproot, and I blame popular media and intellectual laziness for it.
No thanks to the efforts of people like Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code“, people have formed the opinion that Jesus was married, that He fathered a child, that He was only a man, and that the New Testament canon did not exist prior to this council. In “The Da Vinci Code”, for example, the character Sir Leigh Teabing insists that Jesus had been just a man prior to the Council of Nicea, and that one of the issues decided by the council was His divinity; basically stating that Jesus was an extraordinary man one day, and God the next,
“until that moment in history Jesus was viewed by many of his followers as a mighty prophet, as a great and powerful man, but a man nevertheless. A mortal man.” -Sir Leigh Teabing, “The Da Vinci Code”
Of course, this could not be farther from the truth, but the issue with popular opinion is that it is popular; blasphemy or no. Most people simply want to accept these ideas without ever trying to find out if they are true, and seem utterly confused when I point out that Dan Brown is not in fact a historian.
Once you take all of that into consideration, there is a question that does come to mind. If New Covenant canon and Jesus’ divinity were not in fact decided at the Council, what was the purpose to it, then? Why did they call the council, and summon every Bishop from the Christian world to what is now Turkey? Well, the primary purpose to the council was to address the heretical teachings of an Egyptian Presbyter named Arius of Alexandria. The main thrust of his teachings, known as Arianism, is that Jesus, though divine, was nothing more than a created being. He was not God incarnate, and there is no Trinity.
A modern day example of Arianism is Islam. Though not a part of Christianity, this is exactly what the Qur’an teaches about Jesus and God. Occurring a few centuries before the birth of Muhammad, the Council of Nicea excommunicated Arius and his followers, many of whom migrated to the Arabian peninsula and formed their own communities in places like Mecca, the hometown of Muhammad ibn Abdullah. Islam was heavily influenced by the Arian heresy, which shows in the Quranic approach to the Trinity. Take Qur’an 4:171 for example,
“Those who say, “God is the Messiah, son of Mary,” have defied God. The Messiah himself said; “Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” If anyone associates others with God, God will forbid him from the Garden, and Hell will be his home. No one will help such evildoers. Those people who say that God is the third of three are defying [the truth]: there is only One God. If they persist in what they are saying, a painful punishment will afflict those of them who persist. Why do they not turn to God and ask his forgiveness, when God is most forgiving, most merciful? The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a messenger; other messengers had come and gone before him; his mother was a virtuous woman; both ate food. See how clear We make these signs for them; see how deluded they are.” (emphasis added)
What the council resulted in was less than ideal for Emperor Constantine, who had just legalized Christianity within the Roman Empire. He had presided over the council hoping to bring about unity within the Church. The result was the excommunication of Arius of Alexandria, the expulsion of his followers from the Church, and the formulation of the Nicene Creed, which is as follows:
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
This creed had been meant to be as much a repudiation of Arianism as it was a declaration of an official Church position on the topic of the Trinity. It is worth noting that this creed is just as valid for Protestant Christians, Orthodox Christians, and any other type of true Christians, as it is for the Catholic Church. The reason why resides in the meaning of “catholic”. According to Merriam-Webster, catholic means, “of, relating to, or forming the church universal”. This creed is a basic overview of what true Christianity teaches. (In case any are wondering, yes, I will eventually address the Catholic/Protestant schism, and will weigh in on whether or not I believe Catholics are Christian. All in due time.)
How Did They Decide?
How did the ecumenical council at Nicea arrive at the conclusion they did? This moment in history did not show up out of nowhere. Considering that these men had spent their entire lives being persecuted for their faith, it is clear that compromise was not anywhere on their minds. Yet, two of the three groups attending were able to hammer out a consensus statement that has withstood the test of time. They had to have had some basis for this decision.
The groundwork was laid centuries before, when the Apostles and Disciples began their writings. Modern biblical scholars agree that the books and letters we now know as the New Testament, or New Covenant, had all been written before the early part of the Second Century. Over the course of the next few centuries, the early Church fathers wrote sermons, homilies, and letters, all of which account for such a huge volume of text that one could reconstruct virtually the entire New Covenant Scripture from them. These collected volumes of work are commonly referred to as “Patristic writings”. Through this, modern scholars have not only been able to determine what it is that was considered Scripture in those days, but also see how they interpreted what that Scripture said. Through this, they are able to determine whether or not something is sound doctrine.
One of the things they have been able to determine is that the entire New Covenant canon was unofficially laid out by the middle of the Second Century, and that the Council of Nicea simply made official what had already been put into place by the Christians themselves. This means that several key doctrines were already established by the time of the council, including the Doctrine of the Trinity, the Doctrine of Regeneration, and the Doctrine of Salvation by Faith.
History also shows that Arianism was not the first heresy to be addressed by the early Church. Contained within Paul’s writings are hints of heresy beginning to appear in the congregations at Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Galicia. It would appear that a Greek philosophical belief known as Gnosticism was very quickly introduced into the Church, forcing Paul to address it just as quickly.
The Standard in the Text
If you were to go back through the Nicene creed what you would find is a direct reference to one of the ways the council arrived at their conclusions. One line states, “according to the Scriptures;”. Not only did they have access to the Patristic writings, but they also had Scripture itself to help them make a determination about whether or not Arius was correct in his teachings. As I have previously pointed out, the texts that point to Jesus as the Divine Messiah are extensive, so they would not have had to look far.
In addition to Scripture, and the Patristic writings, the men at the council also had access to the scholarly tradition of the Jews, along with that of early Christian scholars who had been in operation since the earliest times. Between these sources, we know that three is a definite standard. We begin with Deuteronomy, Chapters 13 & 18, which of course outlines how a person would be able to judge for themselves who would be a true prophet of God and who is not. These two chapters also provide an outline, an absolute standard that teachers must follow when teaching the Word of God.
The standard is:
- The teachings must not go against the Commandments, rules, or the expressed wishes of God, given through His Word.
- It must be consistent with the rest of the Bible, i.e. history, philosophy, and science must match up with what is known about the world around us.
- The interpretations of Scripture must be consistent with the original languages, culture, and history.
- They must be consistent with the teachings of the early Church, as found in the Patristic writings.
Their Reasons Were Not Self-seeking
There are some people out there who maintain that the theologians at Nicea came to their conclusions in order to consolidate their own power. What they fail to realize is that these men had survived to see the end of three centuries of outright persecution, having spent much of their lives facing the real threat of imprisonment, starvation, torture, and horrific execution. They had been abused, discriminated against, and outright persecuted for their faith, all without refusing to waver or recant. These were not the type of people who would have been concerned with their own comfort, or their own fortunes, and that is why they would not have been seeking to consolidate their own power. These were men of faith and substance who knew what they were about. In short, compromise was not in their vocabulary, which was unfortunate for Emperor Constantine because compromise was exactly what he had wanted.
As you can see, there are definite challenges that one must face in order for one’s teachings to be considered biblically sound. Decisions one way or another must not ever be made lightly, as this deals directly with matters relating to Salvation. The men of the council were clearly not motivated by greed or avarice, but rather Truth. While it might be possible that some members of the council might have had such motivations, it would be illogical and irrational to suggest that the majority or even the entirety of the council was.
What this means for the topic of heresy is that we get a clear standard of proof that cannot be disputed. The Council of Nicea is just one example of the Church dealing with heresy, and shows how that is to be done. When faced with a teaching we think might be heretical, our first stop is found within the pages of that wondrous volume of books made up of the Word of God. Delve into Scripture and determine for yourself the validity of a given teaching. Do be mindful, though, and check your understanding of Scripture with the Source. Never forget to go the Lord prayer and ask for understanding.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” -1 Thessalonians 5:21, KJV