Archive for the ‘theology’ Category

I know a lot of discussion has surrounded the heresy of Modalism lately due to T.D. Jakes’s star appearance on the seeker-sensitive sitcom known as the Elephant Room 2. There is another rank heresy that challenges the very nature of God which is just as bad as Modalism. Those who teach that Jesus is not the eternal Son of God are also attacking the very core nature of our Lord. The truth is that God never changes and He has existed eternally as The Father, Son and Holy Spirit three but yet One(Hebrews 13:8).

It was deeply encouraging when John MacArthur repented of his error of denying the eternal Sonship. See: Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ

I personally believe denying Christ’s eternal relationship within the Trinity is as deadly as what Modalism teaches. I would encourage all my readers to ponder what I have written today.

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Apprising Ministries continues coverage of bromance ER2 where today Todd Friel of Wretched Radio astutely observes we may be seeing a new coalition of contemporary “Evangelephants” emerging.

Frankly, I think ER2 was a scripted Theodrama designed to look like it’s going to be cutting edge; it isn’t. I’m someone who formerly adhered to Word Faith theology early in my Christian walk; and I’ve also personally interacted withT.D. Jakes as you can see in T.D. Jakes Says Ken Silva Is Being Obnoxious.

For now I happen to be a Southern Baptist pastor, as far back as 2006 in But Southern Baptists Say Ok To “Bishop” T.D.Jakes, I’ve been concerned about the heretical Word Faith mogul as he came in to preach at the SBC megachurch of Ed Young. Jr.

In fact, at this same conference former two-time SBC president Dr. Ed Young also shared the platform as well. So, as you might imagine, when the announcement that T.D. Jakes was to be part of ER2 it would naturally catch my attention.

When I investigated further the fetid fruit of ER1 it became pretty clear to me that what was going to happen at ER2 would be a bromance with T.D. Jakes in order to move modalism out of the way so they can bring Jakes into the mainstream of contemporary evangelicalism.

God be praised, I’m afraid I was correct. Tom Chantry provides a transcript of what went on with T.D. Jakes in The Elephant Room II, Session 4 Transcript. For now, I’ll leave you to make up your own mind based upon the evidence.

Here I’ll just share a quick comment from him, which is all too true:

Jakes masterfully deconstructs the entire practice of theology. Don’t be fooled by the panel members who insist that he affirmed the Trinity. What he did was say, “I’m Trinitarian so long as I am free to express it in Sabelian terms.” He repeatedly insisted that Oneness folks and Trinitarian folks are all saying the same thing.

He dismissed the question as secondary – not worth division among the people of Christ, among whom he clearly counts the Oneness churches. Once he has deconstructed the very idea of systematic theology, he can affirm anything. So yes, he answered “absolutely” or “yes” to each and every one of Driscoll’s questions, but what does that mean? Not much. (Online source)

This is precisely what went on in the postmodern obfuscation. Now I’m going to point your attention to the following salient mini-commentary on ER2 today by Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries via Twitter. He’s one of the few men of God out there with some spiritual backbone.

As such, I’m pleased to bring his tweets together for the edification of the church visible. Sadly, Dr. White is right as he begins:

(Online source)

Next Dr. White hits the target dead on as he tweets:

(Online source)

There was no push-back in ER2; in fact, if I was a lawyer I would have raised the objection of leading the witness. Dr. White goes on to state a cold, hard, fact:

(Online source)

Dr. White then drops the hammer with this tweet:

(Online source)

The Oneness Pentecostal/modalist could not answer yes, in good conscience, to this well-defined question. I could not agree more with the following tweet from Dr. James White concerning the basic message sent in this ER2:

(Online source)

Dr. White then shifted and his question questions directly to T.D. Jakes. First, he tweeted:

(Online source)

Finally, Dr. James White applies the coup de grace to modalistic/Oneness Pentecostalism as he asks Word Faith prosperity preacher T.D. Jakes:

(Online source)

We won’t be holding our breath for Jakes to repsond; he really doesn’t handle faithful Christians very well…

See also:

T.D. JAKES IS HERETICAL CONCERNING MODALISM WHETHER HE BELIEVES IT OR NOT

ELEPHANT ROOM 2: MAY WE NOW REGARD T.D. JAKES AS TRINITARIAN AND ORTHODOX?

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: T.D. JAKES AND PAULA WHITE

AUGUSTINE—THEOLOGIAN OF GRACE

A quest for truth—no phrase better describes the work of the great theologian Augustine (354–430). After years of struggle with lust and doubt, he wrote of God: “You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in You” (Confessions, Book 1:1). His quest for truth found its satisfaction in the person of Christ, whose saving grace became the vital center of his theology. Augustine powerfully captured that personal search for truth in The Confessions, one of the truly profound spiritual autobiographies of history.

Born in northern Africa of a pagan father (Patricius) and a devout, godly mother (Monica), Augustine excelled as a student, especially in the ancient art of rhetoric. This introduced him to the genius of the Roman rhetorician, Cicero. Although Cicero was not a Christian, his writings started Augustine on his pursuit of truth and wisdom.

One of Augustine’s greatest intellectual hurdles was the problem of evil—how could a good God permit a world filled with evil, pain, and suffering? He thought he had found the answer in Manichaeism. But when he examined Faustus, an important leader of the Manichees, his disillusionment with Faustus’s arguments caused him to abandon the system. He tried other philosophies, but none satisfied his yearning for truth and wisdom.

Another intense battle of Augustine’s early adulthood was with immorality and pride. For many years he kept a mistress, who bore him an illegitimate son. Because none of the philosophical systems he tried made demands on his personal morality, he believed his immoral lifestyle was justified. Too, his passion for personal fame in the academic world consumed him.

Seeking fame and fortune, Augustine traveled to Rome and Milan hoping to teach his beloved rhetoric. There he met Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. Ambrose’s brilliance impressed Augustine, for Ambrose showed Augustine that his objections to Christianity were shallow and mistaken.

Augustine’s conversion in 386 came, however, not through intellectual argumentation alone, but through an emotional encounter with the Almighty. In a garden outside Milan, he sat one day pondering the philosophical questions with which he had been toiling. As he tells it in his Confessions, he heard a child’s voice say, “Take and read.” He took up Paul’s letter to the Romans (especially 13:13–14) and there found his questions answered. “All the shadows of doubt were swept away,” he wrote (Confessions, Book 8:12). In God’s Word, he found truth in the person of Jesus Christ. He also found the power to shatter his bondage to lust and self-seeking glory, and he found the peace and purpose for life that none of the intellectual fads of his day could provide. He experienced the power of God’s grace that would define the rest of his life.

Augustine changed radically, breaking all ties with his immoral past. After Ambrose baptized him in 387, he returned to northern Africa where he embarked on a lifetime of study and devotion to Christ’s church. He became a priest in 391 and in 395 the bishop of Hippo, a city west of Carthage. His enormous power and influence were felt for many years from that bishopric, especially through his voluminous writing.

Augustine’s contributions to the church were extensive; in so many ways he was a transitional figure in church history. First, he defended the free-grace Gospel of Christ against many opponents, of which none was more threatening than Pelagius.

Pelagius, a British monk, taught a system that denied original sin and the need for God’s grace in salvation, thereby championing a radical man-centered theology. Man, in effect, had the ability to save himself. Augustine leveled the definitive response at Pelagius. He affirmed the guilt and corruption of all humans because of Adam’s sin and the absolute need for God’s saving grace. Following Paul, Augustine formulated the doctrines of election and predestination that would powerfully influence Luther and Calvin centuries later. Augustine’s theological system was God-centered, with salvation totally and causatively effected by God.

Second, Augustine’s Treatise on the Holy Trinity is a magnificent theological masterpiece. In it he saw the God of the Bible as an eternal, transcendent, infinite, and perfect triune God. In defining God as a Trinity in one essence, his work constituted the capstone of centuries of theological thought on the nature of God. There was little debate on the nature of the Trinity after Augustine.

In his work on the Trinity, Augustine also solved his personal struggle with the problem of evil. For him, the Bible taught that God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo) and created humans and angels with a free will. Free will explained how evil entered into a good universe—Satan, some angels, and humans chose to rebel against God. Grace was the only explanation of why God chose to redeem humanity through His Son.

Third, his City of God, rooted in a belief in God’s sovereignty and providence, postulated the first genuine Christian philosophy of history. Written as a response to the destruction of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths, this work saw history as a story of two cities—the city of God and the city of man.

Each city is motivated by contrary loves—the city of God by love for God and the city of man by love of self. Both will continue until the end, when God will bring eternal condemnation on the rebellious city and eternal salvation to the obedient one. Therefore, Augustine argued, Rome fell, as will all cities of man, because it was sinful, idolatrous, and rebellious. Only God’s city will triumph.

Other aspects of Augustine’s theology deserve comment. Because of his ascetic lifestyle, he found repugnant any reference to a literal millennial kingdom on earth. He rebelled against the idea of God bringing in a kingdom of material goodness and physical abundance. So he allegorized passages like Revelation 20 and taught that these verses referred to the present age, not a literal thousand-year reign of Christ.

In an age when intellectual fads and promiscuous lifestyles continue to enslave, the life of Augustine remains a compelling one. He demonstrated that only God’s grace can break the chains of sin, for Jesus alone provides the answers to life’s vexing questions. Once Augustine found life’s key, he stood as a model of erudition and brilliance explained only by the power of God’s grace.

The Theologians achieved doctrinal consensus on what the Scriptures taught about the Trinity and Jesus Christ. The matter of the roles of God and man in the dynamic of salvation was not as easy. Increasingly, the official position of the Roman Catholic Church rendered man’s role as equally important, so that salvation was taught to be a cooperative effort between man and God.

Eckman, J. P. (2002). Exploring church history (35–38). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway.

DEFINING THE DOCTRINE OF THE GOD-MAN

The touchstone of theological orthodoxy is the person of Christ. Both His deity and His humanity must be affirmed, or the entire doctrine of salvation is affected. Only a Jesus who is truly God and truly man can provide a complete salvation for humanity.

A problem in the early church was explaining how Jesus’ deity and His humanity related. At any given point in His earthly life, how did His two natures blend? Was He more God or more man? How should we view the union of these two natures in the one person? The debate over Jesus’ two natures troubled the church for more than 300 years, at least until 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, when the definitive statement about Jesus’ two natures was written.

As one studies the early church, it becomes clear that the emergence of error usually prompted the church to seek a more satisfactory explanation of a theological question. This was true of the doctrine of Christ. Throughout the period from 325 to 451, major interpretations emerged, often heretical, that challenged the church to think more precisely about defining the relationship of Jesus’ two natures.

The Alexandrian School

Two schools of theology, one in Antioch and the other in Alexandria, Egypt, framed the debate on the nature of Christ. The Alexandrian school claimed such luminaries as Athanasius and the great Origen. Influenced by Greek philosophy, especially Plato, the Alexandrians tended to elevate the spiritual—Christ’s deity—at the expense of His humanity.

Following logically from the Alexandrian position came the heresy propagated by Apollinarius. He was a friend of Athanasius and Basil the Great as well as a teacher of the great Jerome. However, he taught that Jesus was fully God but that His “rational soul” was supplanted by the divine Logos. This meant that Jesus was not completely human.

The Council of Constantinople in 381 condemned Apollinarius as a heretic because his view affected the doctrine of salvation. How could Christ sufficiently die for humans if He was not totally a man Himself? The council thus concluded that Jesus had to be completely human and completely divine.

The Antiochene School

The second major school of theology, in Antioch, was influenced by Aristotle, who saw man as a unity of soul and body, not a dichotomy. This school gave far more importance to the unique distinction of Jesus’ two natures than did the Alexandrians. The Antiochene emphasis logically produced the heresy Nestorianism, named after Nestorius, who further challenged the church’s thinking about Jesus.

As Patriarch in Constantinople in 428, Nestorius held a powerful position in the early church. For several reasons he was uncomfortable with the way the Alexandrians were using certain phrases about Jesus, all of which he thought amounted to a dangerous mixing of the human and divine natures of Christ. His solution was to maintain an absolute distinction of the two natures to such an extent that the only connection between them was the will.

The best analogy of how Nestorius viewed Christ was as a Siamese twin. Because the patriarch could not imagine deity being involved in human suffering or change, he insisted that the two natures were artificially joined. Even though some modern scholarship doubts whether Nestorius actually taught this, this teaching was condemned as heresy at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

It was clear that neither the rigid two-nature model of Nestorius nor the careless one-nature theory of Apollinarius corresponded with the biblical data. In Jesus’ confrontation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, His two natures seemed to be in perfect communion. At any given moment in time, He was both God and man. Thus a position was needed that would combine the strength of both proposals.

A monk from Constantinople named Eutyches proposed a model for understanding Christ that attempted to reconcile Apollinarius and Nestorius. He refused to maintain a clear distinction between the two natures of Jesus; instead, he argued for a mixture of the natures such that a third confused mingling was the result. The analogy of dropping a few drops of oil into a pail of water illustrates the point—both the oil and the water are present, but the distinction between the two is not clear. The result of Eutyches’ teaching was a confused mixture, not fully God or man.

The Council of Chalcedon

To settle this critical matter of how to view the two natures of Jesus, a major council of more than 400 church leaders was called at Chalcedon in 451. After much debate, these leaders affirmed a statement rooted in Scripture that has singularly remained the most important declaration about Jesus Christ in the history of the church.

The statement proclaimed Jesus to be both God and man in one person. It declared that both natures are joined in a miraculous way so neither nature is damaged, diminished, or impaired. His two natures are joined “unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, and inseparably” (Leith, 36). Salvation is thus secured for those who profess faith in Jesus because His sacrifice was as both saving God and identifying man.

From Chalcedon, then, the church taught that Jesus is undiminished deity plus perfect humanity united in one person, without any confusion of the two natures. In the absolute sense of the term, He is the God-man!

We live in a world where religious cults are threatening orthodox truth at every turn. If church history teaches us anything, it is this—precision of language in doctrinal matters is imperative. Any choice of words when describing Jesus that diminishes His deity or His humanity is incorrect and heretical.

The miracle of the Incarnation stretches our finite minds to the limit. The great legacy of the Council of Chalcedon reflects a consensus on the language that preserves both the complete deity and humanity of Jesus in His person. A complete salvation demands it; faith in the God-man, Jesus Christ, procures it.

Eckman, J. P. (2002). Exploring church history (32–35). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway.

THE THREE CAPPADOCIANS—DEFENDING THE TRINITY

One of the most profound truths of the Christian faith is the doctrine of the Trinity. It separates Christianity from all other world religions.

The Bible teaches in Deuteronomy 6:4 that God is one; yet from the New Testament it is clear that this one God consists of three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The church has always affirmed this doctrine as orthodox, but wrestling with its theological and philosophical implications has been difficult. Especially in the early church, this struggle often produced heresy.

The ancient church of the third and fourth centuries was plagued with false teaching that challenged the deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Whether it was the teachings of Arius or a group called the Pneumatomachians, the Son and the Spirit were regarded as subordinate to the Father. In order to preserve the oneness of God, others argued that Jesus was a man who was adopted as the Son of God; thus He was not eternally the Son.

Others contended that there was one God who revealed Himself in one of three modes—Father, Son, or Spirit. To decide the issue, the early church asked, “Is this what the Scriptures teach?” More specifically, what precise, descriptive words could guard against heresy when it comes to explaining the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit? Even into the fifth century, the church labored over these questions.

The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity was a product of a series of debates and councils, sparked in large part by heretical teaching from within the church. It was the collaboration of three friends, the Three Cappadocians—Basil of Caesarea (circa 330–379), Gregory of Nazianzus (circa 329–389), and Gregory of Nyssa (circa 330–394)—that produced the victory over many of these heresies. God clearly used them in a mighty way to formulate the truth about the relationship between the members of the Godhead. Until modern religious liberalism emerged in the nineteenth century, their work provided the definitive framework for thinking and speaking about the Trinitarian God we worship.

Brief biographical sketches place all three as key leaders in the Eastern church. Basil was born into a wealthy Christian family in what would be modern Turkey. Well educated in the schools of Greece, he was appointed bishop of Caesarea. His influence in the development of monasticism was enormous.

His brother, Gregory of Nyssa, became a teacher of rhetoric and was appointed bishop of Nyssa. While the Arians were in resurgence in the Eastern empire, he was deposed and sent into exile for five years. Their mutual friend, Gregory of Nazianzus, was also educated at the universities at Alexandria and Athens, where he met Basil. To one degree or another, each was philosophical, mystical, and monastic. But they shared a deep commitment to orthodox Nicene Christianity. Passionately, each defended the members of the Trinity as coequal, coessential, and coeternal.

Perhaps Basil made the most significant contribution in championing the orthodox view of the Trinity. The language used by theologians of the early church often depicted the Son as subordinate to the Father; He was thus in some way inferior. When it came to the Holy Spirit, there was very little discussion at all.

Basil showed that when we think of the Trinitarian God, we must always separate the terms “essence” and “person”; they are not synonyms. “Essence” is what makes God, God. Attributes such as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience are involved here. “Person” is a term that defines the distinctions within that one essence. Thus we can correctly say “God the Father,” “God the Son,” and “God the Spirit,” while maintaining that they are one and inseparable in being. Basil was also the first theologian to write a major treatise on the Holy Spirit in which he offered proofs for the deity of the Spirit.

Gregory of Nazianzus took the argument a step further. Agreeing with his friend Basil’s contention of the difference between essence and person, Gregory showed that the difference between the three persons is relational. This relationship is delineated as eternally the Father, eternally the Son, and eternally the Spirit. Eternally there has been love and communion between the persons of one essence that constitute the Trinity.

Basil’s brother, Gregory of Nyssa, also showed that the difference between the members of the Godhead is not one of essence or of substance. The difference can be grounded only on the inner relations and functions of each. Any language that results in the Son’s being subordinate to the Father or of the Spirit’s being subordinate to the Son is simply unacceptable.

Thus the Trinity is one God of three persons whose difference is relational and functional, not essential. We do not have three gods or three modes of God; we have one God. Ephesians 1:1–14 illustrates the point quite well—the Father chooses, the Son redeems, the Spirit seals (see also 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2). Each member of the Godhead is intimately involved in the drama of salvation. We thus can follow Paul and praise the Trinitarian God of grace!

It is difficult for us in the modern church to imagine how much the early church struggled with choosing the proper words when discussing the nature of the Godhead. But in each generation God raised up individuals to protect the church from error. The Three Cappadocians teach us the importance of precise thinking when it comes to the Trinity. Their precision won the day at the Council of Constantinople in 381 where the forces of heretical thinking were defeated.

Eckman, J. P. (2002). Exploring church history (30–32). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway.

The doctrines of grace humble a man without degrading him and exalt a man without inflating him –Charles Hodge