Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Heresis" Part IV

Joh 13:35  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Rom 12:16  Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

The scriptures are so pure, their commands so straightforward, they flow so wonderfully together. If we did not know, we could not imagine they were written by 40 different authors who lived hundreds of years apart. They walk with the same message and carry the same theme. Each book lends support and strength to the other.

It is equally difficult to imagine that we are so divided over a book of such unity. It seems we must be determined to disagree upon something and separate ourselves from one another. This has become so distasteful to some they disdain doctrine and label it divisive. They refuse to define what they believe other than Jesus is their savior and God is their Father. They will make superficial references to the Holy Spirit and stress the love factor professing that is all we need. The sermons consist of moral ethics laced with more love your neighbor feelings. However, this is not a faith that will stand the test of time.

For one to truly be committed to a person, one must know who that person is. The Christian by faith is called to a commitment of such magnitude in Christianity that death itself will not break it. Therein lies the importance of doctrine and maintaining Orthodoxy. As we are seeing, that is not and has not been an easy task for the Church. Men are weak in their passions, pride and emotion rules much to often in the Christian heart. The tendency of the Christian to follow a personality and be influenced by people with Charisma or popularity weaken our position.

History demonstrates this is not unique to today, the errors and division of the first few centuries of the church were not unlike ours. They were perhaps even worse, which demonstrates the divine origin of the scriptures. For it is evident that men of themselves could not produce such a work of perfection.

That brings us to one of the greatest struggles the church has faced concerning Christ. Who was He? Why does it matter? It matters because we are called to trust in Him for our redemption, our very eternal existence depends on His ability to perform His claims.

Arius was an influential teacher that rose up from within the church which brought division for over half a century. Some of these movements lasted hundreds of years before losing influence, and even then to resurface time and time again throughout history.

Arianism is as big as history itself, it almost consumed the church and even exist today in various movements. Arianism defined the nature of Christ as a new created being. God created Him in order to mediate between Himself and the world which had fallen. Christ was independent of God and distinct from Him. Like fallen man Christ could have exercised his free will to disobey God. In certain forms of Arianism Christ was not worthy of divine worship as the Father. However, being a perfect creature through which all creation was made He could be our mediator. If you are familiar with other sects claiming the name Christianity today many of these element will sound familiar.

This belief became very popular among Christians as it seemed to maintain the oneness of God demonstrated in Scripture and maintained the uniqueness of Christ that is found in Scripture. This theology matters immensely because it denied the divinity of Christ. In this controversy as in all controversies the weakness of men becomes evident. Men of influence within the Church began to us the political powers that be to gain advantage over those that opposed them. Over those years Orthodoxy was determined by the view of the Emperor who happened to be in power at time. Advantage was gained by whatever means possible to promote the view each party thought was correct.

After years of struggle, Orthodoxy finally came to the forefront. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 325 AD and 381 AD established Orthodoxy for us for over a thousand years. Only in the last century has that understanding of Scripture come under attack again.  

 What are we to take away from this? First the positive, these difficulties only magnify the majesty of the Scriptures, (2Pe 1:19  We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
2Pe 1:20  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
2Pe 1:21  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.)

Second, the weakness of our understanding and the nature of our passions leave us at a disadvantage. Approaching our study in a humble state recognizing these elements of our nature is necessary. Awareness of the same weaknesses in others should cause caution in us in following any new movement. Scripture must be weighed against Scripture while taking into considering the Orthodox beliefs of those before us. We must remember, the Scriptures have been scrutinized for thousands of years by men of great minds and much understanding. The excitement of finding some new revelation that has not been explored is an unsafe approach. Such has been the downfall of many and the cause of much confusion within the body.  

Finally, the two considerations above brings us within reach of the assurance of our faith. We are assured of the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit to teach us as we study. Our cautions only aid us in that understanding and helps bring clarity as we learn. We can find Orthodoxy as it is understood in the scriptures. We can understand by Nicene Creed that Jesus Christ is "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 and for our salvation came down from Heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost 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 sitteth on the right hand of the Father:
And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose Kingdom will have no end:" 

We can take that Orthodox understanding and find that it does not conflict with the flow of the Scriptures. In this, we can find unity and assurance of faith. 

For a much more in depth study please see the book by Harold O. J. Brown "Heresies" 

May the Grace of God be with each of you,




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