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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Theology

Positions I Don’t Think Are Necessarily Heretical (Maybe Though)

“He is a heretic” is a common phrase thrown around by many who love theology.  I have seen people named a heretic for simple disagreements over end times views.  I myself have been called a heretic because I reject the teaching of the rapture of the Church.  I have been called a heretic for rejecting Calvinism.  I have been called a heretic once by a charismatic because I reject the “laughter movement” of the 1990’s.  The term “heretic” is thrown around too much in my opinion.

And no doubt this has been true at times in Church history.  The Anabaptists were severely persecuted by Martin Luther and the Reformers.  Luther stands before the Diet of Worms and gives his famous stand for the Word of God only to turn around four years later and condemned the Anabaptists to death for their views on baptism.  The Anabaptists were largely hated by the Reformers though the Reformers preached that we should test all things by the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  What was the main “heresy” of the Anabaptists?  Baptism of believers by immersion.  The term “Anabaptist” was applied to them because the term means “two baptisms” because the Reformers stood with Roman Catholicism in agreeing with infant baptism and thus condemned the Anabaptists for re- baptizing adults whom the Reformers saw as already baptized because of their infant baptism.

In our day baptism is not so much the issue.  Most Reformed who hold to infant baptism (and even some Arminians as Arminius held to infant baptism) reject that we should kill those who baptize by immersion.  They also reject that those who hold to believer’s baptism would be heretics and vise versa.  There is peace there in this debate.

Yet there are positions that some hold to be heretical that I don’t consider necessarily heretical.  I might not agree but I don’t think that there are heretics nonetheless.  I once did in some cases.  Years ago I use to view myself as the orthodox believer and all others had to fall in line.  Not so now.  After dealing with my own sins, I see my need for God’s forgiveness and grace and I see that I fall terribly short in many ways.  I need reforming myself and I praise God for His grace towards me (1 Timothy 1:15).  I rejoice that perfect theology is not the standard for salvation.  Who could be saved?  The standard is you must know you’re a sinner and see your need for a Savior.  That is me (Luke 19:10).  “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17 KJV).

So what positions do I know see as non-heretical though I might not agree with them.

Calvinism – A few hold that Calvinism is heretical.  I don’t.  I see them as my brothers and sisters in the Lord and greatly love my Calvinists friends and family.  Some of my favorite preachers and teachers and theologians are reformed.

Open Theism – Though I am not an open theist, I don’t believe that all open theists are heretics.  They are wresting with the mystery of divine omniscience and how this works in a free world.  By the way, Calvinism wrestles with the same issue though they go the opposite of the open theist.

Conditional Immortality – This is the position that rejects eternal conscience torment in hell.  I know a few brothers who condemn brothers who reject eternal conscience torment in eternal hell as heretics but this should not be the case.  Men such as Edward Fudge have wrestled with the texts and reject eternal conscience torment while maintaining salvation as a gracious gift from our eternal God.

Original Sin – I know brothers who reject the doctrine of original sin.  Most Arminians reject the Calvinist teaching on original sin yet I know some who reject the teaching altogether and believe that babies are born sinless while born into a sinful world.  While I can see how this teaching could lead to perfectionism teachings, I don’t believe these brothers are rejecting original sin because they have not searched the Scriptures.  I am somewhere in-between on this teaching and aligned more with inheriting a sinful nature from Adam while not inheriting Adam’s sin.

Infant Baptism – I hold to believer’s (or better Christian) baptism by immersion but I don’t reject those who disagree with me as heretics.  I know of godly Arminians who hold to infant baptism and love them as brothers.  We all agree that salvation is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ and not in our works (Titus 3:5-7).

KJV Only – While I completely disagree with the KJV only camp, I know some godly men who preach the gospel while holding firmly to the KJV.  By the way, I even know a Reformed brother who would qualify as a KJV only follower but he is not extreme and loves the Lord Jesus.  The truth is that Jesus saves us by His grace (Ephesians 2:1-9) and not by our Bible translations.  I was saved using the NIV.  Others have been saved using the KJV.  God saves us by the gospel (Romans 1:16-17) and not by our Bible translation though I do believe a good Bible translation is vital (for example the erroneous New World Translation of the JW’s though I read a testimony of a brother who was saved even by the NWT).

Soul Sleep – I know some brothers who hold to soul sleep.  These are not Seventh-Day Adventists but actually Reformed brothers who hold to this view.  While I am not sure on the doctrine, I don’t believe a person is a heretic for this view.

Perfectionism – I know a few brothers who hold that they don’t sin anymore.  One guy boasted on Facebook that he had not sinned in like 22 years.  While I think that this view is really stupid (yes just stupid), I praise God that He saves us from ourselves by His grace.  I once held mildly to this view.  I completely reject it now.  That said, I don’t think that a person is completely a heretic because they teach this.  I think the teaching leads to bondage and not freedom and puts too much emphasis on us and not on the work of Christ for our sins (Ephesians 1:7) but I don’t necessarily think these people are complete heretics who know nothing of God’s love.

Various End Times Views – These too many to tell.  All seem to want to label the others are heretics.  I am not there.  I am a partial preterist but I don’t reject those who disagree.  I reject dispensational theology but believe dispensationalists to be saved.  I reject premillennialism but hold them to be brethren in Christ.  Again, the standard for salvation is not our end times views but our confession of Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10).

Charismatics – Again, like the above, too many to label.  While I do think some charismatic teaching is very bad (see the Prosperity Gospel for example) and there are many bad teachers in this bunch, I know many godly Pentecostals and charismatics who truly love Jesus and desire to glorify Him.  Some of my heroes of the faith are Pentecostals who taught me how to pray and how to love and study the Bible.  I have such great memories of godly Pentecostals teaching me how to witness, how to pray, how to worship, how to love God, how to think of Christ in all we do, etc.  While some want to label many in this group heretics, be careful as there are many godly saints here.

Seeker Driven – I am not a seeker driven church guy.  Never have been.  Never will be.  I have attended some seeker churches in the past and I think its a joke.  That said, I don’t think that all seeker pastors are heretics and I’m sure that many of them do love souls and long to see people saved.  I praise God for that.  While I reject their model and often their tactics and will continue to preach against them, I don’t think they should just be labeled heretics.  I think many of them are probably orthodox in their theology while holding to church practices I disagree with.  I’m okay with that.  Of course, I pray that many of these leaders will come out of this movement and preach the whole gospel but that beyond the point here.  Again, Jesus saves sinners and not theology perfectionists.

Conclusion

I closing I pray that you extend me grace here.  If you hold to these people above being heretics, perhaps you’ll throw me in there too.  I pray not.  I am nothing.  I am a sinner who needs Jesus.  I confess that need.  Don’t follow me or you’ll end up in hell.  Follow Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/13/2017 at 3:02 PM

The Master Who Bought Them

In 2 Peter 2:1 we find one of the major passages that teach that Jesus Christ died for those who reject Him.  The Calvinist view is that Jesus died only for the elect of God, His sheep, His people.  Calvinist theologians will often point to passages such as John 10:11 where Jesus says that His death is for His sheep.  Calvinists then point to sheep as proof that Jesus died only for those who His.  They point out that, in their view, the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus died for all men but only all types or kinds of people and thus they come to passages such as John 3:16 and interpret “world” to mean “the elect out of the world” (John Owen) or 1 Timothy 2:4 and believe that the Lord wants to save all types of people from 1 Timothy 2:1-2.  Thus true Calvinist evangelists will never say that Jesus died for a person they are preaching the gospel to since we can’t know for certain if Jesus did die for that person.

Augustine went further in his views on election.  He believed that God would even send a false spirit of assurance to a non-elect person to deceive them.  Why?  Who knows but God?  So a person could possibly think that they are elect, that Jesus died for them, that the Spirit of God dwells in them but in fact they are deceived and are destined for eternal destruction.

I argue further that the Calvinist doctrine of atonement does not lead to assurance.  A person reading this may think themselves elect (including the writer) but in fact a year or so from now, we might turn away from the faith and prove that we were never saved (or elected) to begin with (1 John 2:19 in the Calvinist view).  We could be a Judas (John 6:70-71 and notice that Jesus Himself chose Judas just He did all His disciples according to John 15:16).  Let us hold firmly to 1 John 2:24-25.

In 2 Peter 2:1 however we find a passage that Calvinist theologians and apologists struggle with.  The verse reads in the ESV:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

The verse is clearly speaking of false disciples, false teachers.  These are not Christians, true disciples of the Lord Jesus.  These are even heretics.  Yet Peter the Apostle says that Jesus bought them.  He uses the Greek word “Agorazo.”  The word means to buy or to buy a thing (Matthew 13:44, 46; 14:15).  Paul the Apostle uses the same Greek word in 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23 which both read:

6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

The word “Agorazo” is used in Revelation 5:9 and 14:3-4:

5:9  And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.

14:3-4 And they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.  It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb.

In both cases the ESV translates the word “Agorazo” as “redeemed” but the basic meaning is to purchase or buy.  While Galatians 3:13 doesn’t use “Agorazo” we see that it is Christ who redeems us or purchases us for God.  Christ is our redeemer, the very One who would die for our sins and redeem or buy or purchase us for God.  We are redeemed from sin, from Satan, from the world, from the curse.

And so are those in 2 Peter 2:1.  They are not saved but they were purchased.  This view aligns perfectly within Arminianism where we believe that Jesus shed His blood for all men.  The blood of Jesus though only saves those who appropriate His blood through faith (Romans 3:25).  We are now justified before a holy God through faith in the Lord Jesus who died for our sins (Acts 15:11; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9).  This salvation is accomplished by the work of the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:3-6).  Our faith is in Jesus alone to save us from our sins and to forgive us and to reconcile us to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

And this gospel is for all sinners (Matthew 28:19).  Jesus died for all and all can be saved through the work of Christ Jesus (Titus 2:11).  Of course, the Bible doesn’t teach that simply because Jesus died all men are now saved (Hebrews 5:8-9).  People are commanded to repent and believe the gospel (Acts 17:30-31; cf. 2:38-39).  The heart of the Lord is for all (2 Peter 3:9). The Arminian evangelist can cry out that Jesus died for all sinners (John 3:16; 12:32), that whosoever can come and be saved (Romans 10:13; Revelation 22:17).  The Arminian can point to the Old Testament examples of proof that God was preparing the world for the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  That just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and all who looked to it were healed, so the Son of Man was lifted up that all the world might look to Him and be healed (John 3:14-18).

Truly the love of God is great for lost sinners.  Even here in 2 Peter 2:1 we can hear the Holy Spirit calling to these heretics to repent.  The heart of God is not for their destruction (Ezekiel 18:32) but for their repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10; cf. Romans 2:4).  Truly the love of God is great for John writes in 1 John 4:10:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

But lest we forget John adds in 1 John 4:14:

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

This is the same world that John denounces in 1 John 2:15-17 but here he says that the Son of God is the Savior of the world.  This is the same world as in John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2.

Let us preach that Jesus is the Savior of the world and this is great news for all men (Luke 2:10-11).

Book Review: Exploring Christian Theology (Volume One)

Exploring Christian Theology (Volume One) by Nathan Holsteen and Michael Svigel.

This book is a solid work.  The authors are both graduates from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and so I expected there to be a solid evangelical emphasis with a dispensational leaning.  This was not so (at least in the areas of theology they covered).  In this book, the authors cover the doctrines of revelation (how God has revealed Himself), Scripture (the inerrant and infallible Word of God given to us by inspiration of the Spirit), and the Triune God.  While I was going into this book thinking that the book would be written on a simple level (too simple were my thoughts going in), the book was actually very well done and the language, while not deeply theological for those who are just studying theology, was solid enough for even seminary level students to enjoy.

The authors do a good job at exploring two main ares in this book.  First the authors explore what the Bible says about a given subject.  For example, the authors first show what God has said in His Word about His own revelation.  Then the authors explore what Church history and others have to say about the subject at hand.  I appreciated the biblical background being the heart for the disciple of Christ.  The Bible is how we can speak for God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and the Bible is faithful to reveal the truths we need for the Christian life.  One cannot begin theology or anything else in life without a solid foundation from the Word of God (Psalm 119:142).

The chapters are full of knowledge.  I appreciated the Scripture memory sections in each chapter that highlighted various passages of Scripture on the subject.  A disciple of Christ would do well to memorize these passages (John 8:31-32).  The authors also include charts throughout the book.  The charts often take complex issues and help the reader to see them clearly.  For example, the authors show the erroneous views of Christ by taking the major views of Christ throughout Church history and place them in a chart for one to read.  This makes it easy to see how various leaders have erred about Christ in the history of the Church.

Overall I am looking forward to reading the next editions to this work. While this book is not a deep systematic theology text, it is very good for the average disciple who just wants to know more about the faith.  I do recommend this book.

This review is based on a free copy of the book that was given to this reviewed from Bethany House Publishers.

The Kindle version is found here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/26/2014 at 1:38 PM

Why Did God Choose Me?

The differences between Arminianism and Calvinism over the issue of the doctrine of election are revealed when we seek to answer the question, “Why did God choose me?”

The Calvinist answer is that God chooses people purely based on His arbitrary choice.  God does not choose people because He loves them or because of faith in Christ but based purely on God’s sovereign choice.  Calvinist theologian Sam Storms writes:

To say that God is impartial means that he is not moved or motivated by human characteristics such as race or gender or color of hair or socio-economic achievements. When God set his electing love on some but not all, he was not influenced by wealth or power or beauty or education or skill or potential or any other human consideration. God favored the elect, God was partial toward them, because that is what he wanted to do. He was not obligated by anything in any person to show favor to anyone. If God grants preferential treatment to his elect it is solely because it pleases him to do so, and not because the elect distinguished themselves from the non-elect by fulfilling some condition, either spiritual or physical.

Arbitrary in His choosing.  God’s choosing is based purely on His sovereign right to choose.  It is not based on the person at all.  God does not treat the person as a person but a part of His plan.

John MacArthur defines unconditional election as follows:

It is the doctrine taught by Scripture throughout Scripture that God sovereignly, independently, uninfluenced by any other person chooses who will be saved and that that choice was made by God before time began, before the world was created in eternity past and that He is in response to that choice redeeming His chosen people through human history until finally they are all together redeemed and gathered into His presence forever.

Notice again that election among Calvinists is purely arbitrary.  It is based on God’s sovereignty alone.  Humans play no role in the Calvinistic understanding of election.

Yet I will be fair here that MacArthur (and most Calvinists) deny double predestination despite the fact that Calvin taught it from Romans 9:22-23.  MacArthur is clear that he holds that God merely endures the non-elect while not making them that way.  However, if the sovereignty of God is to be maintained (as taught by Calvinists) then MacArthur must ignore the role that God’s sovereignty would play upon the non-elect.  They are non-elect because God will it so and this is a fundamental point of disagreement from us Arminians.

The Arminian answer to the question of “Why did God chose me” is based on the Christ-centered approach to Scripture.  God chose me because of Christ (Ephesians 1:4-13).  Scripture reveals that the heart of God is fully revealed in His Son (John 1:14).  Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and Jesus was fully God and fully man (John 1:1).  Jesus is the heart of Scripture (John 20:31).  All of Scripture testifies about Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27).  Jesus is the very center of Scripture and we must view all things through Him and His saving work.

In light of the cross, election would then be based on the work of Jesus.  Those who embrace the cross become the children of God, the elect of God found in Christ (1 Timothy 4:10).  Jesus is the elect one and we are elect if we are in Him through faith (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Jesus shed His blood for all men (Matthew 26:28) and His blood alone is able to cleans sinners from their sins (Ephesians 1:7).  Only those who appropriate the work of Christ are the elect of God (Romans 5:17).  Only those who trust in Christ alone are saved (Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).  God foreknows the elect (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2) because He is God and He knows all things but He does not make people believe but people believe out of their own freed will (John 6:44).  In Romans 9 Paul clearly shows that those who have faith in Jesus are saved and the Jews are lost because of their rejection of Christ and His saving work (Romans 9:30-31).  God’s heart is now to have mercy on all and not merely Israel (Romans 11:32).

Thus election in Arminianism is not arbitrary but is based on love.  I know that Calvinists claim that their teaching on election is also based on love but one cannot ignore the sovereign arbitrary choosing of God that, according to both Storms and MacArthur above, is based on God alone.  God, in Calvinism, then chooses people purely because He wants to and not because of Christ, faith, or even love.  It is His glory alone that God chooses people in Calvinism and hell exists because of God’s glory.

The fact that God treats people as people made in His image is a strong point for us Arminians.  Despite mankind’s sinfulness, God still reaches out to men and He still interacts with men based on love and God speaks to people in the Bible as people.  Even MacArthur acknowledges this.  He preached:

I think we preach whosoever will may come. I think we preach Isaiah 55, everyone that thirsts, come, come. Jesus says, “Why will you die? Why won’t you come?” Jesus weeps, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you, you that kill the prophets and stone those that are sent to you, how often I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her brood, but you would not and now your house is left to you desolate.” Jesus pleading, Jesus weeping. Jeremiah 13, God weeps in Jeremiah 13, shedding tears over Israel’s apostasy and unbelief and disobedience and defection from the truth. And the heart of God is broken and the prophet says God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. So I…I see clearly that the Bible holds the sinner responsible. The Bible calls the sinner to repent and believe the truth.

And I agree.  God deals with people as people.  He calls them to repent. He calls them to turn.  He calls them to be saved.  The call of Acts 2:39 is that all can come.

The bottom line is that the Calvinist is hard pressed to define election apart from God’s arbitrary choice.  The Arminian position is that God deals with people on a personal level based on the work of Christ.  Election then in Arminianism is Christ-centered with Christ receiving the glory, worship, and honor for saving sinners.  His blood was not shed in vain as the gospel goes forth (Romans 1:16-17).

My Advice for 2014 For Arminians and Calvinists

Each year we all start out with fresh ideas for the new year (or at least I suppose we do).  I typically wrestle with what Bible reading plan am I going to use in the upcoming year.  Will I stick to my old one year Bible or will I develop my own reading habit or will I turn to a Bible reading plan?  All of this is in my mind as the new year dawns.  I don’t make resolutions because I have found that I simply am not good at keeping them.  Most of us aren’t.  Our sinful nature is such that we are lazy, often become easily focused on other things, and we are self-centered.

However, as I was thinking today about Arminianism and 2014, I begin to wonder how many Arminians will take the time in 2014 to read a Calvinist theologian writing on Calvinism and likewise how many Calvinists will take time to read an Arminian theologian writing on Arminianism?  Too often I find it comfortable to read a book on Calvinism written by an Arminian and I am sure Calvinists enjoy reading a Calvinist theologian writing against Arminianism.  It is comfortable, easy, and enjoyable to read from our own theologians.

So my challenge to you this year is to read someone you don’t agree with.  Read a Calvinist writing on Calvinism.  For my Calvinist friends, read an Arminian such as Roger Olson, Vic Reasoner, Robert Picirilli, or Leroy Forlines on Arminianism.  We often will say things about what Calvinists believe or what Arminians believe when in fact we have not even taken the time to read their works.  How many Arminians have read Calvin?  How many Calvinists have read Arminius?

Make it a simple goal this year to read a book by a theologian from another camp about their own theology.  I am planning on reading John Piper’s book, Five Pointswhich is a short work on the five points of Calvinism.  I plan to read it without comment on my blog.  I am not reading Piper to generate another blog post against Calvinism.  I simply want to understand the Calvinist viewpoint.

I pray my Calvinist brothers and sisters will do the same toward us Arminians.  And most of all, I pray that in 2014 God will be glorified among us all.  Jesus alone is worthy to be praised and exalted and may we spend much time doing just that in a world full of darkness and sin.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/01/2014 at 9:25 PM

The Myth of A Perfect Theological System

I have been reading Winkie Pratney’s book, The Nature and Character of God, and in the book Pratney opens up by writing a short chapter on human fallacies.  His main point is that there is no such thing as a “perfect theological system.”  Because we are sinners beholding a holy and perfect and infinite God, we make errors about Him and His Word and His nature.  Pratney points out that we all work from various backgrounds and when we study God, we bring our flaws into our studies whether we see them or not.  Both Arminians and Calvinists do this when we debate one another.  We tend to only see our point of view and none other.

Some can take Pratney to a point I don’t believe he intends and make all theology ambiguous.  There is certain biblical truths that are clear and worth defending such as the existence of God, the Trinity,  the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ including His virgin birth, His sinless life, His miracles, His vicarious death, His resurrection, and His bodily ascension to the right hand of the Father where He now lives to intercede for the saints until His second coming in the future, heaven and hell, sin, etc.  I don’t believe that all theology is intended to be illusive and unknown.  This is the emergent, post-modern view that theology should not be fixed or as Brian McLaren likes to say, “Stuffed and mounted on a wall for all to see.”

However, I do think that we all could use a little humility when it comes to theology.  None of us are perfect (Proverbs 20:9).  We all need God’s grace for our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  None of us know God perfectly.  None of us have figured God out unless you are in a cult which it seems most cults have God figured out.  None of us have a lock on truth.  I fear the person who has perfect theology as I believe that it’s just a matter of time before their perfect theology comes crashing down.  I have learned over the years to not box God in.  He is God and He will not be controlled by human beings.

There are certain people in the Church who would cast someone out for not holding to, for example, literal creationism.  I hold to this but I don’t doubt that others who disagree with me can still love the Lord.  I don’t cast aside people who hold that God gives them personal revelations though I do seek to make sure they are basing all that they “hear” on the Word and not subjective experience.  I don’t throw away people who believe in conditionalism when it comes to hell such as Edward Fudge whom I consider a true brother in the Lord.  I don’t cast aside Calvinists who disagree with me over much of my own theology.  I don’t cast aside even my own Arminians who disagree with me over eternal security.  I believe that we need to have much grace for one another as none of us have a perfect knowledge of God.

If we can learn anything from the early Church Fathers it’s that they debated theology.  I have next to me a book by David Bercot called, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.  The book is an A to Z book with quotes from the early Church Fathers on mostly theological themes.  Bercot is selective in his usage of the fathers so one must be careful when reading the book.  However, the book shows that the fathers did not all agree perfectly.  They correctly saw that they had their various views based on their backgrounds from paganism and culture to the tools they had before them.  They were not always charitable toward one another and even killed some whom they branded “heretics.”

On the next post, I will give the rules that Winkie Pratney gives in his book about studying God that I believe are very useful to us as well.  Our passion should be to know God (John 17:3) and we should not shy away from seeking to know Him in truth simply because we are flawed.  If anything, this should drive us to always be studying God and His Word since we make mistakes, we change our views, and we tend to be influenced by what is around us and what we listen to and read.  Pratney’s points about studying God are well put and I believe you’ll find them very helpful.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/22/2011 at 10:08 AM

Arminius on the Divinity of the Son of God

VIII. THE DIVINITY OF THE SON OF GOD

With regard to the Divinity of the Son of God and the word autoqeov both of which have been discussed in our University in the regular form of scholastic disputations, I cannot sufficiently wonder what the motive can be, which has created a wish in some persons to render me suspected to other men, or to make me an object of suspicion to themselves. This is still more wonderful, since this suspicion has not the least ground of probability on which to rest, and is at such an immense distance from all reason and truth, that, whatever reports have been spread abroad respecting this affair to the prejudice of my character, they can be called nothing better than “notorious calumnies.” At a disputation held one afternoon in the University, when the thesis that had been proposed for disputation was the Divinity of the Son of God, one of the students happened to object, “that the Son of God was autotheos, and that he therefore had his essence from himself and not from the Father.” In reply to this I observed, “that the word autotheos was capable of two different acceptations, since it might signify either “one who is truly God,” or “one who is God of himself;” and that it was with great propriety and correctness attributed to the Son of God according to the former signification, but not according to the latter.” The student, in prosecution of his argument, violently contended, that the word was justly applicable to the Son of God, principally according to the second of these significations: and that the essence of the Father could not be said to be communicated to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, in any other than in an improper sense; but that it was in perfect correctness and strict propriety common alike to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” He added “that he asserted this with the greater confidence because he had the younger Trelcatius of pious memory, [but who was then living,] as an authority in his favour on this point; for that learned Professor had written to the same purport in his Common Places.” To these observations I answered, “that this opinion was at variance with the word of God, and with the whole of the ancient Church, both Greek and Latin, which had always taught, that the Son had His Deity from the Father by eternal generation.” To these remarks I subjoined, “that from such an opinion as this, necessarily followed the two mutually conflicting errors, Tri-theism and Sabellianism; that is,

(1.) It would ensue as a necessary consequence, from these premises, that there are three Gods, who have together and collaterally the Divine essence, independently of this circumstance — that one of them (being only personally distinguished from the rest) has that essence from another of the persons. Yet the proceeding of the origin of one person from another, (that is, of the Son from the Father,) is the only foundation that has ever been used for defending the Unity of the Divine Essence in the Trinity of Persons.

(2.) It would likewise follow as another consequence, that the Son would himself be the Father, because he would differ from the Father in nothing but in regard to name, which was the opinion of Sabellius. For, since it is peculiar to the Father to derive his Deity from himself, or (to speak more correctly,) to derive it from no one, if, in the sense of being “God of himself,” the Son be called autotheos, it follows that he is the Father.” Some account of this disputation was dispersed abroad in all directions, and it reached Amsterdam. A minister of that city, who now rests in the Lord, having interrogated me respecting the real state of this affair, I related the whole of it to him plainly, as I have now done: and I requested him to make Trelcatius of blessed memory acquainted with it as it had actually occurred, and to advise him in a friendly manner to amend his opinion, and to correct those inappropriate words in his Common Places: this request the minister from Amsterdam engaged to fulfill in his own way.

In all this proceeding I am far from being liable to any blame; for I have defended the truth and the sentiments of the Catholic and Orthodox Church. Trelcatius undoubtedly was the person most open to animadversion; for he adopted a mode of speaking which detracted somewhat from the truth of the matter. But such has always been either my own infelicity or the zeal of certain individuals that, as soon as any disagreement arises, all the blame is instantly cast upon me, as if it was impossible for me to display as much veracity [or orthodoxy] as any other person. Yet on this subject I have Gomarus himself consenting with me; for, soon after Trelcatius had published his common places, a disputation on the Trinity having been proposed in the University, Gomarus did in three several parts of his theses express himself in such terms as were diametrically opposed to those of Trelcatius. The very obvious difference in opinion between those two Professors I pointed out to the Amsterdam minister, who acknowledged its existence. Yet, notwithstanding all these things, no one endeavoured to vindicate me from this calumny; while great exertion was employed to frame excuses for Trelcatius, by means of a qualified interpretation of his words, though it was utterly impossible to reconcile their palliative explanations with the plain signification of his unperverted expressions. Such are the effects which the partiality of favour and the fervour of zeal can produce!

The milder and qualified interpretation put upon the words of Trelcatius, was the following: “the Son of God may be styled autotheos, or may be said to have his Deity from himself, in reference to his being God, although he has his Deity from the Father, in reference to his being the Son.” For the sake of a larger explanation, it is said, “God, or the Divine Essence, may be considered both absolutely and relatively. When regarded absolutely, the Son has his Divine essence from himself; but, when viewed relatively, he derives it from the Father.” But these are new modes of speaking and novel opinions, and such as can by no means consist together. For the Son, both in regard to his being the Son, and to his being God, derives his Deity from the Father. When he is called God, it is then only not expressed that he is from the Father; which derivation is particularly noted when the word Son is employed. Indeed, the essence of God can in no manner come under our consideration, except it be said, “that the Divine Essence is communicated to the Son by the Father.” Nor can it possibly in any different respect whatever be said, that this essence is both “communicated to him” and “not communicated;” because these expressions are contradictory, and can in no diverse respect be reconciled to each other. If the Son have the Divine Essence from himself in reference to its being absolutely considered, it cannot be communicated to him. If it be communicated to him in reference to its being relatively considered, he cannot have it from himself in reference to its being absolutely considered.

I shall probably be asked, “do you not acknowledge, that, to be the Son of God, and to be God, are two things entirely distinct from each other?” I reply, undoubtedly I subscribe to such distinction. But when those who make it proceed still further, and say, “since to be the Son of God signifies that he derives his essence from the Father, to be God in like manner signifies nothing less than that he has his essence from himself or from no one;” I deny this assertion, and declare, at the same time, that it is a great and manifest error, not only in sacred theology, but likewise in natural philosophy. For, these two things, to be the Son and to be God, are at perfect agreement with each other; but to derive his essence from the Father, and, at the same time, to derive it from no one, are evidently contradictory, and mutually destructive the one of the other.

But, to make this fallacy still more apparent, it must be observed, how equal in force and import are certain double ternary and parallel propositions, when standing in the following juxtaposition:

God is from eternity, possessing the Divine Essence from eternity. The Father is from no one, having the Divine Essence from no one. The Son is from the Father, having the Divine Essence from the Father.

The word “God” therefore signifies, that He has the true Divine Essence; but the word “Son” signifies, that he has the Divine Essence from the Father. On this account, he is correctly denominated both God and the Son of God. But since he cannot be styled the Father, he cannot possibly be said to have the Divine Essence from himself or from no one. Yet much labour is devoted to the purpose of excusing these expressions, by saying, “that when the son of God in reference to his being God is said to have his essence from that form of speech signifies nothing more, than that the Divine essence is not derived from any one.” But if this be thought to be the most proper mode of action which should be adopted, there will be no depraved or erroneous sentiment which can be uttered that may not thus find a ready excuse. For though God and the divine Essence do not differ substantially, yet whatever may be predicated of the Divine Essence can by no means be equally predicated of God; because they are distinguished from each other in our mode of framing conceptions, according to which mode all forms of speech ought to be examined, since they are employed only with a design that through them we should receive correct impressions. This is very obvious from the following examples, in which we speak with perfect correctness when we say, “Deum mortuum esse,” and “the Essence of God is communicated;” but very incorrectly when we say, “God is communicated.” That man who understands the difference existing between concrete and abstract, about which there were such frequent disputes between us and the Lutherans will easily perceive what a number of absurdities will ensue, if explanations of this description be once tolerated in the Church of God. Therefore, in no way whatever can this phrase, “the Son of God is autotheos,” [“God of himself,” or “in his own right,”] be excused as a correct one, or as having been happily expressed. Nor can that be called a proper form of speech which says, “the Essence of God is common to three persons;” but it is improper, since the Divine Essence is declared to be communicated by one of them to another.

The observations which I now make, I wish to be particularly regarded, because it may appear from them how much we are capable of tolerating in a man whom we do not suspect of heresy; and, on the contrary, with what avidity we seize upon any trivial circumstance by which we may inculpate another man whom we hold under the ban of suspicion. Of such partiality, this incident affords two manifest examples.


 

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/30/2011 at 5:36 PM

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