Friday, April 28, 2017

Modern Heresy

Just so that you don't think I'm crazy or proposing some completely weird, out-of-the-box theological reading of the Scriptures, it's important to understand what the church has been talking about, thinking about, and debating about for the past two thousand years.

Hint: it's not the same thing that we're talking about.

See, for most of the church's history, she's been fighting against various heresies that somehow made Jesus less than God, less than the Father, lesser as a member of the Trinity, if He was a member of the Trinity at all. 

There were actually a lot of debates about this. There were camps of Christian faith that were saying that since Jesus was begotten, He couldn't be eternal. And since He wasn't eternal, then He couldn't be on the same par with God, the Father. (These were not dumb guys, by the way. They were very smart theologians, just trying, as much as any of us are, to get it "right." So it would be a mistake to just write them off as fools. Far from it!)

And, of course, this is heresy because it lessens the Jesus story significantly. It takes away the prominent place that the Son has in the Godhead. So, of course, the church decided that this would not do. Jesus could not be seen as lesser than the Father in any way.

Then there were discussions about the exact nature of Jesus. Maybe He's co-eternal with the Father and not lesser just because He was begotten, but are they the same kind of God? There were longstanding debates with a lot of Greek words about whether Jesus and God, the Father were "of the same substance" or "of a like substance." Yes, really. Is the divinity in Jesus the same as the divinity in the Father or is it just kind of similar? 

Well, Jesus Himself says He and the Father are one. Who are we to argue? (But oh, there were arguments!)

There were also debates about whether Jesus and God, the Father, were just really the same God in different forms. You know, like how sometimes, I'm a student and sometimes, I'm a blogger and sometimes, I'm a daughter, etc. Sometimes, God is a Father, and sometimes, God is a Son. Maybe that's what's going on, right? Wrong. That, too, is heresy. 

So for much of the church's history, these were the kinds of questions she was dealing with about Christ and the nature of the Trinity. (She would later add discussions about the Holy Spirit and need to accommodate a theology of the Spirit into everything, as well.) I think sometimes that's how it became so easy for us to swing as far as we have in our day - we spent so much time, as the church, trying to figure out who Jesus really is that we've come to the conclusion that He must be somehow the most special of all. We just haven't had the debates about the nature of God the way that we have about the nature of Christ (and there were more even than these). We've had some about the Spirit, but still, not to the degree that we have about Christ. 

But as easy as it is to trace heresy through this history and to say of course it was wrong to have ever believed that Jesus could be less than the Father or that Jesus could be of some difference substance than the Father or that Jesus could be just one mode of the Father, so, too, is it a modern heresy to live in the way that we do - as though Jesus is somehow greater than the Father. So, too, is it heresy to swing the pendulum too far in the other direction and subject the Father and the Spirit to the Son, which is the line that we're currently dancing with. 

These aren't easy questions, and I have not intended by any means to imply that they are. In two thousand years of wrestling, we still don't have it quite right. And I don't know that we have to settle it, necessarily, because I think there are some things about the Godhead that we're just never going to understand. There's nothing wrong with that. (I love a little mystery about my God.) it's just important to keep these kinds of questions before us so that in all our zeal, we don't just push right past them and miss something important.

Something like the Threeness of our One True God. 

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