- Myth #1: The "historical Jesus" is different from the Jesus of the Bible
- Myth #2: The New Testament was written 100 years after Jesus
- Myth #3: There was no virgin birth and Jesus was not born in Bethlehem
- Myth #4: Jesus did not claim to be God
- Myth #5: The Gospels contradict one another and contain fiction
- Myth #6: The Miracles of the New Testament were invented
- Myth #7: Jesus never really rose from the dead
- The Real Jesus - Part One
- The Real Jesus - Part Two
- A New Comprehensive Approach to the Gospels
- Countering Bible Contradictions
Exposing the Christological Heresies of Pop Culture
OPEN WITH MONTAGE OF SCENES FROM THE SUPREME COURT, IMAGES OF JUSTICES, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS MONUMENTS, NEWS CLIPPINGS WITH REPORTS FROM THE COURT CASES.
NARRATOR ON SCREEN: The uncertainty faced by many Christians in knowing what is behind Supreme Court decisions on public displays of the Ten Commandments could be cleared up by a second century pagan named Celsus. (FADE OUT.)
FADE IN: Scene of a newsroom but the anchor is dressed in a Roman toga and is reading from a scroll.
(NEWS MUSIC PLAYED ON HARPS IN BACKGROUND)
ANNOUNCER: It’s THE ROMAN REPORT with news anchor Maximus Minimus!
ON SCREEN CAPTION:
THE ROMAN REPORT
WITH MAXIMUS MINIMUS
Saturday, August 10th, 167 A.D.
MAXIMUS MINIMUS: Last Sunday, we reported that the Roman Senate voted to officially sanction the persecution of a troublesome sect of religious fanatics. This cult advocates, among other abominations, the teaching of atheism in denying all gods but their one God should be worshipped. They also practice ritualistic cannibalism in the eating of the flesh of their God — and a form of so-called brotherly love, thought by some to be a code word for incest. The cult is known as the Christians and they follow a leader named Jesus who was crucified for encouraging political insurrection in Palestine over 130 years ago. Leaders of the cult claim that their Jesus rose from the dead after three days revealing Himself to be a God-man.
(WIDE SHOT WITH CELSUS IN CHROMA-KEY IN BACKGROUND SCREEN)
MAXIMUS MINIMUS: We asked the pagan critic Celsus to weigh in on the Christian controversy. Celsus … Tell us what’s going on?
(MAXIMUS MINIMUS TURNS TOWARD CELSUS ON SCREEN AND IMAGE ZOOMS IN TO FILL SCREEN)
CELSUS (STANDING BEFORE THE ROMAN SENATE HOLDING SEVERAL SCROLLS UNDER HIS ARM): Well Maximus, many here in the Senate were offended by the Christians’ teaching that they are a “chosen race” and that the Savior of the whole world would be sent to Palestine. As a devoted Cynic, I concur! Why, if God wanted to deliver the human race from evil, did He send His spirit into only one corner of the world? He ought to have breathed His Spirit into many Saviors, and then sent them out into all the world! I want to appeal to these Christians to abandon their separatism and work to bring all men into the ideal of polytheism. If they insist in denying the gods that the Senate has deified, then death in the arena is just too good for them.
MAXIMUS MINIMUS: Thank you Celsus! In a related story, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius has approved the measure and has also promised that the property of Christians will be turned over to their accusers. And on that note, let’s go to Sports … The Roman performers really did things right tonight at the forum. The attendance figures were full. We will show you the final results from the chariot races as well as how those Christians fared against the lions … but first a commercial break ….
Enter the Critic Celsus: A second century pagan weighs in on the Supreme Court’s Ten Commandments rulings
In the early years of the church, there appeared Celsus, a pagan critic whose work, “On the True Doctrine,” was refuted point-by-point by the church father Origen. Celsus was a syncretist who sought to combine the religious and philosophical systems of the world. He advocated a universalist religion culled from the writings of Plato, Socrates, the Gnostics, the Stoics, the Epicureans, and the religions of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians and Hindus.
Ironically, we would not know of Celsus’ work had it not been for Origen. Although there is no existing copy of Celsus’ work, Origen cites about nine-tenths of the original text in his diatribe, “Against Celsus” (Contra Celsum). It is possible with some guess-work to reconstruct the entire text of Celsus from Origen. In fact, there have been at least two modern English publications of “True Doctrine” by Celsus without Origen’s rebuttal.
Modern critics of Christianity have delighted in Celsus. He foresaw the secular humanist argument in favor of the neutral public square in which pluralism is the state policy. Celsus anticipated the objections that have been raised by modern rationalists and evolutionists. This second century opponent of Christianity argued against the Christian idea of a divine creation of man. Instead, Celsus insisted that the men and animals had a common origin.
As we parodied in our mock “Roman Report,” Celsus felt insulted by the biblical idea that there could be a “chosen race” or that the Savior of the whole world would be sent to Palestine. Echoing the Platonist idea that all divinities were subject to one God, Celsus wrote, “Why, if God wanted to deliver the human race from evils, did He send this spirit into one corner? He ought to have breathed it alike into many bodies, and have sent them out into all the world” (Contra Celsum 6.78).
However, Celsus’ work is different from other pagan attacks on Christians in the second century. He did not falsely accuse Christians of atheism, cannibalism and incest, as did his contemporaries Marcus Fronto and Lucian of Samasota. Instead, he used the Old and New Testament scriptures and personal knowledge gained from conversations with Christians. His tactic was to expose alleged contradictions in biblical doctrine. Sound familiar?
Celsus appealed to his Christian contemporaries to abandon their separatism and work to bring all men into the ideal of “one religion.” If Christians would only integrate their beliefs into the state-sanctioned religion of polytheism, they could live in peace. Burn a pinch of incense in honor of the cult of Emperor worship and be done with persecution.
Celsus thought that each race ought to honor its own god. Instead of advocating disrespect for the Empire and its ancestral gods, Christians ought to join the neutral public square. Since many religions were tolerated, Christ could be tolerated too as one of the many gods of the Empire.
So there really is nothing new under the sun. In 2005, the Supreme Court sent what some in the media called a “mixed message” in two cases deciding whether monuments of the Ten Commandments could be displayed on public property.
Writing for the majority in McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, Justice David Souter said that government officials had acted with an improper purpose in posting the Ten Commandments in courthouses. According to the majority opinion, there is a difference in the frieze above the Supreme Court’s own chamber depicting Moses holding tablets with seventeen other lawgivers. Souter wrote that the high court might integrate a display of the Ten Commandments as long as it is in the context of the history of law.
The Supreme Court’s message is consistent with the philosophy of Celsus. Moses’ God, after all, is just one of many gods. The various religions of ancient and modern times are part of the natural order. For no matter how the religions of the world may differ among themselves, they all hold that there is one Creator God who is supreme. Religion may be tolerated as long as it is not exclusive and intolerant of other faiths.
This viewpoint also underlines why the idea of origins has become such a hot item of contention in the debate. Was America founded as a Christian nation, or was it the experiment of religious pluralists who wanted all belief systems to peaceably co-exist in the neutral public square? The secularist understands correctly that it is not enough to maintain that Christians originally founded America, but now we ought to become a pluralistic nation. Instead they must contend that pluralists founded America.
Early church polemicists such as Origen, Tertullian and Ireneaus understood that when they were arguing against pagans and heretics there needed to be a public canon of truth from which to argue. The church fathers read the Bible as the narrative of God’s activity in history as truth. There could be no competing pluralistic truths existing in universal harmony.
Likewise, Christians today need only to point to the existence of America and the United States Constitution as evidence that we are a Christian nation. Instead of missing the forest for the trees, we need only to cite the obvious necessity that a nation founded on a Constitution must be a Christian nation.
In proving this, we need only point to the Pentateuch, the books of Moses, to see the history of a nation that was founded on God’s law, that believed one God created the world and established commandments to which all men are subject. The United States government, first in its state charters and later in the Declaration and the Constitution, was the only nation in history after ancient Israel to be founded on such a premise.
All pagan nations have been founded on the rule of man. All Christian nations are based on the rule of written law. We must either stake our foundation on man’s pluralistic polytheism or on an eternal divine law. The rule of man or the law of God: take your pick. The future of our culture depends on whether we as Christians understand the concept that there can be no neutrality in the public square and then act accordingly.
There Are No New Heresies
Heresiology, or the study of heresies, is useful to Christians. By studying the antithesis, false doctrine can give us a fresh and concise understanding of Truth. And as we have seen, there are no new heresies, only old wolves dressed in new sheep’s clothing. When we view the heresies of the first five centuries of Christianity, we see that all of the modern “cults” which threaten the Christian Church are based on one or more of these ancient heresies.
In the first five centuries of the Church, there were three broad categories of primary heresies. These were the Gnostic, Arian, and Pelagian heresies. In part three of our presentation, we will first look at brief definitions of these three primary heresies; and then we will examine how all modern cults and false ideologies reproduce one of these ancient heresies.
The Gnostics appeared in the first century and are represented by the numerous mystery religions which came out of the East. According to the Apostle John, these “mysteries” came out of “Babylon” (Rev. 17:5). Just as a brief review from part two of this presentation, Gnosticism held that spirit is good, matter is evil. Salvation consists in deliverance of the spirit from matter, and salvation is achieved by means of a secret or higher “knowledge” (Greek: gnosis). The Gnostics taught that the Supreme God was transcendent and unapproachable, but from Him came a series of progressively inferior emanations called aeons. The lowest of these aeons is “Jehovah.” Christ is one of the highest aeons. Since all matter is evil, they taught that Christ was a spirit being and had only an illusive body. Sometimes this is known as the doctrine of Docetism. The Gnostics taught that Christ was a spirit temporarily inhabiting the body of the man Jesus who died. Gnostic views of the Godhead were opposed by Paul in his writings, by Peter in his second epistle, by the Apostle John in his writings, and by the Church Fathers and apologists.
The Arians arose soon after the Emperor Constantine came to the throne. Arius was a priest at Alexandria in the early fourth century. He denied the doctrine of the Trinity, and the full divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Arius maintained that Christ and the Holy Spirit were “lesser gods” and creations of the Father. This heresy arose in the Church, and prevailed like a flood, threatening to carry away the Church, so much so that before the fourth century was finished, the greater part of the Christian Church had become Arian. There were even some Roman emperors, successors of Constantine, who were Arians. So the Arians, being the prevailing party, had the civil authority on their side to persecute the true Church. They were opposed by Athanasius and finally defeated in the fifth century.
The Pelagians arose in the beginning of the fifth century. This heresy was begun by Pelagius, who was born somewhere in Britain. His British name was “Morgan.” Pelagius denied original sin and the influence of the Spirit of God in conversion. He taught that the human will had the power to obtain salvation. This heresy greatly infested the church for a time. Pelagius’ principal antagonist was Augustine, the fifth century Bishop of Hippo, who wrote in defense of the orthodox faith. The Council of Orange was convened in 529, which condemned Pelagianism, and essentially confirmed Augustinian doctrine with some modifications as being the true catholic faith. If anyone teaches that man is basically good and we are saved by our own works, then that is a primary heresy, because it denies the atoning work of Christ on the cross. True Christianity teaches that we are saved solely by an act of God’s sovereign grace.
The Seed of the Serpent
From the writings of Paul, Peter, John and the other Apostles, we see that not only are our 21st century heresies similar to those of the early Church, but that Satan has been a liar from the beginning, and has used the same strategy to turn man’s heart from God.
As the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3).
As human beings, we are not born into this world divorced from Truth; but Truth is obscured in our minds through the sin of Adam. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, the Apostle writes of the “natural revelation” that is made known to all men.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:18-21).
The “unrighteousness of men” spoken of in this passage of Scripture is otherwise known as Original Sin. All of us inherited sin nature from the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Original sin is not individual acts of sin, but the sin nature (or the flesh) that all people are born with. Thus all wrong thinking about God and man is traceable to original sin. In fact, all wrong thinking about everything is due to man being out of right relationship with God. All heresies are a replay of the deception that was carefully orchestrated by a subtle enemy.
We commonly see a paradigm shift, which can move entire culture in just one generation from a tendency to Pelagianism towards Gnosticism. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Pelagian heresies were more common than they are today. We see in the higher critics search for the historical Jesus (and in rationalism, naturalism, nihilism and existentialism) a strong tendency toward Pelagian error — the idea that man can perfect himself. This tendency toward man-centered error originated in the 18th century Enlightenment and continued for about 200 years in full force.
But then the cultural mentality began to shift. In a short period of time, we have forgotten about God and God’s laws. About forty years ago, Christian ethics began to be scorned and discarded by the younger generation. The end result of the 1960s was symbolized by the “Woodstock Nation” — a drug induced orgy orchestrated by rock music celebrating rebellion. But the absence of God and His laws created a spiritual vacuum in the hearts of the younger generation. After the emergence of the “flower child” generation, new religions, such as Transcendental Meditation and a variety of cults, made inroads into our culture. The most popular of these new gods was, of course, SELF. The children of the 1970s became known as the “Me” generation. By the 1980s and ’90s, most of Western nations had made up new laws without reference to Christian ethics. A mass amnesia had set in for the disenfranchised “Generation X” and most were unaware that they lived in what was once a Christian culture. By the 21st century, Western culture had become a post-modern society, free of absolute values and Christian ethics. The revolution had been completed.
Most of the youth of Western culture today truly are rebelling against the God of the Bible. But in their minds, they despise the caricature of God offered by Pelagian and Adoptionist heresies. As C. FitzSimmons Allison has pointed out in his book, The Cruelty of Heresy, most modern nihilistic rage against the Christian faith is in reality a rebellion against a heretical conception of God.
As we enter the 21st century, astrology, witch covens, paganism, vampire cults, and strange religions practicing bizarre rites are thriving as we have not seen since the 17th century. For hundreds of years, Pelagian tendencies were the main threat to Christian orthodoxy in the West. But today, the Christian Church must be prepared to meet an even more dangerous distortion in the Gnostic Docetic direction.
Know Your Enemy
If the first rule of warfare is, “Know your enemy,” then we need to understand where the philosophy of the neutral public square came from in the first place. The idea of religious pluralism was not invented by America’s founding fathers when they wrote the first amendment. The idea of pluralism and neutrality is found rather in the Greco-Roman philosophy of Platonism. This idea of pluralism and neutrality has become the favored political ideology of the modern media.
The power of the media to influence public thinking was ironically showcased in the 1950s in the promotion for Cecil B. DeMille’s epic film The Ten Commandments. Dozens of monuments of the Ten Commandments were donated to cities across the nation as part of a publicity campaign for the film. The monuments were displayed without controversy for decades, but in recent years, a series of legal challenges have removed them from public property. This has been done in spite of overwhelming public support for the display of religious monuments.
Since the 1960s, a small group of liberals have become hugely successful in influencing that way that the media has portrayed Christianity. Media elitists know that the common man is too self-absorbed to understand that the entertainment before him is also propaganda. Rather than fight the huge religious consensus in America, the liberal media has sought to cash in on it using a marketing strategy directed at the millions of conservative Christians in America.
However, in creating a “Jesus industry,” media elites have also sought to subtly define God in their own image. Films, books and television shows will simply repeat one of the many early Christological heresies. Many times this is done self-consciously by writers who know that few will understand the connection.
The Christ of modern pop culture is often a false Christ. Therefore, the Christ that people reject is often based on a false conception of who He really is.
It doesn’t matter that every heretical view of Christ was refuted in full detail in the writings of the church fathers. The problem is that few Christians know anything about Christology (the biblical study of who Jesus is) so they cannot defend against the errors except to say:
(ACT OUT HERE WITH YOUNG CHRISTIANS SAYING)
“I really don’t know much about that book.”
“I heard that it was evil.”
“I haven’t seen that movie because my pastor preached against it.”
The good news is that if we can remove the confusion and present the Real Jesus, then more people will embrace Him as the true Christ. That will mean knowing something about the pop heresies subtly presented by the media and knowing how they were defeated in past history.
Gnosticism: An Old Error in a New Package
As in the early centuries of the church, the heresy of Gnosticism went to one either one of two extremes. The Docetic sect embraced pseudo-spirituality, denying anything good in the material world and held that Christ only appeared to have a real birth, death and resurrection. Some of the Docetics completely scorned the value of law keeping. Thinking that the flesh was evil, no sin committed by the body could affect the person who had attained to a truly spiritual state of being. Some of the Docetics swung to the opposite extreme into licentiousness and carnality.
The opposite heresy to Docetism is called Ebionism. The Ebionites accepted Jesus as Messiah but believed that He was simply a man upon whom the Spirit of God descended at His baptism. Ebionism is often called “Adoptionism” because it asserts that the man Jesus was adopted as God’s Son but was not, as the Nicene Creed says, “eternally begotten of the Father.” Jesus, according to the Ebionites, was the greatest of the prophets in that He showed that the law of God might be obeyed. He was an example to His followers to do likewise. The Gospel of Ebionism is to try harder.
We can see the Ebionite heresy in control of the lives and ministries of many Christians prior their conversions. We could cite such famous examples in the biographical accounts of St. Augustine, David Brainerd, George Whitefield and John Wesley. Gifted and hard-working men, they were unhappy and ineffective because they were victims of legalistic thinking. It was only when they rejected their form of Ebionism and accepted God’s grace, that they became powerful ministers.
Adoptionism has reappeared throughout Church history whenever some have taught that the man Jesus was adopted into the Sonship by an act of God. In general, adoptionism is any belief that Jesus was a man who was elevated to divinity at some point in his life.
The second century teachers of adoptionism were concerned with preserving the divine unity or monarchia. Therefore this heresy has become known as dynamic monarchianism. The originator of monarchianism was a Byzantine leather merchant named Theodotus, who brought the doctrine to Rome in 190 A.D. Although he was in full agreement with the statements of the Apostles Creed on the creation of the world, divine omnipotence and the virgin birth, Theodotus believed that Jesus lived the life of an ordinary man, the difference being he was supremely virtuous. At his baptism, the Spirit or Christ descended upon Him and from that moment he worked miracles without ever becoming fully divine.
Monarchian teachers were strict Unitarians concerned with preserving the truth that God is one, but teaching the heresy that Jesus Christ was a mere man. The dynamic monarchians refused to consider Jesus to be God and did not worship Him as God.
The Docetic form of Gnosticism, on the other hand, teaches that secret and esoteric knowledge holds the key to salvation. In his book, The American Religion, Yale professor Harold Bloom wrote that many Americans who are professing Christians have a belief system that more closely resembles the Gnostics. This is a religion is based on personal experience with almost no tolerance for Church tradition or authority. The goal is “to be alone with God or Jesus.” Personal experience is valued while the pursuit of orthodoxy and the study of doctrine and theology is scorned as “unspiritual.”
Hand-in-hand with the reemergence of a pietistic form of Christian Gnosticism, the Jewish form of this ancient heresy, Kabbalah, has also experienced a modern revival. Christian author Chuck Colson commented on the Gnostic phenomemon:
It’s undeniable that many Americans are in the market for what I call “do-it-yourself God kits.” These kits enable them to feel good about themselves without making objective moral demands. They promise valuable knowledge without forcing the adherent to confront questions of truth. In other words, it’s a religious system perfectly suited for the spirit of our age. That’s why it’s standing-room-only at the Kabbalah Center (BreakPoint with Charles Colson, May 14, 2004).
The Kabbalah Center, mentioned by Chuck Colson, was founded by Philip Berg in Los Angeles in 1984, and run by him and his sons Yehuda and Michael. With a number of branches worldwide, the group has attracted many non-Jews, including celebrities such as Demi Moore, Madonna, Mick Jagger and Britney Spears.
According to an edition of World Entertainment News Network:
Legendary singer Madonna bought Britney Spears a “priceless” 12th century Kabbalah book to celebrate her engagement to dancer Kevin Federline. The pop icons are devout followers of the mystical offshoot of Judaism, so the singer is thrilled with the special bound edition of Zohar also known as Book Of Splendour and refuses to go anywhere without it.
Spears says, “It paints a bigger picture than even the Bible. It’s just so interesting to me because I’ve never read stuff like this before” (World Entertainment News Network, August 20, 2004).
Nowhere is the reemergence of Gnosticism in pop culture seen more clearly than in the 1999 film, The Matrix, a phenomenally popular film that spawned two sequels with a continuous story line. The Matrix had many Christians believing that the plot was intended as an allegory for the life of Christ in the character of Neo, played by Keanu Reeves.
A Christian audience will soon recognize the frequent religious symbolism. Within minutes of the beginning of the story, another hacker says to Neo, “You’re my savior, man, my own personal Jesus Christ.” Biblical allusions include Apoc, short for Apocalypse; the name Trinity; Neo’s name of Mr. Ander/son which might be derived from the Greek word for man, andros, thus producing “the Son of Man; the ship named Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king in the Book of Daniel whose symbolic dreams must be interpreted by the prophet; and the last remaining human city, Zion, synonymous in the Bible with the heavenly Jerusalem. Neo is the Christ figure of the film trilogy. He is “the One” who was prophesied to change the Matrix from within, who battles the representatives of evil in the form of Agent Smith. Neo’s death, resurrection and ascension near the end of the film is another obvious Christian allegory.
It is more plausible to say, however, that the Wachowski brothers brought together a variety of religious themes and ideas especially Christian doctrine as viewed through a Gnostic filter. Like many false religions, Gnosticism shares many ideas with orthodox Christianity, but the differences make Gnosticism closer to the spiritual philosophy expressed in the Matrix Trilogy.
In his conversation with Neo near the end of The Matrix Reloaded, the Architect explains that he is responsible for the creation of the Matrix. We are left to wonder If Neo is the Christ, then does this make the architect God the Father? Definitely not. This is out of sync with the conflict in the story. Remember that in Gnostic belief, the material world was created by a demiurge commonly identified with Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, not the supreme God who is transcendent and unapproachable. In Gnosticism the supreme God exists far beyond the created world. It is the Demiurge who commands a legion of lesser aeons who are the craftsmen of the physical world. In the third and final film, Matrix Revolutions, the Architect has a closer resemblance to the Gnostic demiurge — appearing more demonic than God-like.
The goal of Gnosticism is liberation from the material world. This can only be only accomplished by those who attain secret inner knowledge. Those who become enlightened are aided in their quest by Christ, sent by God to the world as a bearer of enlightenment in order to relieve humanity of its bondage to the material world.
The Gnostic Christ also comes to save Sophia, the embodiment of wisdom, a lesser being who emanated from God, but then later drifted away from him. In The Matrix, we also meet the Oracle, a program within the Matrix endowed with prophetic wisdom. At the end of the first film, the Oracle announces that Neo has once again made a “believer” out of her.
Keanu Reeves plays the role of the Gnostic Christ, a teacher of enlightenment sent to liberate humanity. The Matrix is the artificial world of illusion in which humanity is kept imprisoned by machines. The concept of Gnosticism is the pervasive dualism between the spiritual and the material worlds. The real world is attainable only to those who have trained their minds to resist the world of illusion found within the Matrix. Gnostic dualism is portrayed in the film with Neo as the revealer of that secret knowledge.
In the second century, Irenaeus challenged the dualism of the Gnostics with the text of the Bible. In citing the authoritative cannon of the New Testament, the church fathers challenged the heresies of the pagans and Gnostic heretics. The existence of the Church itself is result of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. In urn, the Spirit uses a material body in order to speak to the world, and this is the Church. Thus there can be no dualistic separation of spirit and body.
But on whom can Irenaeus’ mantle fall today? There is little hope in the new so-called “spiritual direction” of many of Hollywood’s television programs and films. While on the other hand, the average professing Christian is unable to discern the difference between orthodox Christianity and its Gnostic counterfeit. Modern Christians are often knowledgeable about biblical doctrine, but fall short in the most basic areas of Christian orthodoxy such as Christology. There are undoubtedly many sincere Christians in our culture who have a hunger and a thirst to know Jesus Christ more intimately. But sadly, few can articulate in the medium of pop culture: who is the Real Jesus. Few Christians can explain how He differs from the heretical version of the Christ presented in popular films such as The Matrix. At the end of this presentation, we will conclude with a suggested outline for the study of Christology, the true knowledge about the person of Jesus Christ.
Another strategy of the enemy from the early years of the Church until today has been to introduce confusion into the minds Christians over the doctrine of the Trinity. In addition to Arianism, which denied or diminished the deity of Christ, were several anti-Trinitarian heresies that cropped up in the first few centuries of the church in the form of Monarchianism.
Monarchianism is any teaching denying that there are three persons in the Godhead. The most prevalent heresy is called modalistic monarchianism. Basically, modalism is the same as the modern doctrine of Oneness taught by the United Pentecostal Church, some “Deeper-Life” cults, and the famous healing evangelist, William Branham. An implicit or “naive” modalism is sometimes found among modern Christians who insist on the deity of Christ, but are unwilling to make a theological effort to formulate a clear doctrine of the Trinity.
Modalism is a term used to describe a belief in early church history that Father, Son, and Spirit are not eternal distinctions within God’s nature but simply modes (methods or manifestations) of God’s activity. In other words, God is one individual, and various “titles” used to describe Him — such as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — are designations applied to different forms of His action or different relationships He has to man.
Modalism appeared as a distinct doctrine in the second century. Its adherents were fairly widespread. They were concerned with preserving the teaching of both the oneness of God and the full deity of Christ. Their teaching is summarized by the idea that there is only one God, the Father who entered into the Virgin Mary’s womb, was born as a man and suffered and died on the cross. This teaching was also known as patripassianism — or the belief that the Father suffered.
In Tertullian’s Against Praxeas, he indicated that during his time some believers either naively or ignorantly adhered to the modalist doctrine:
The simple, indeed (I will not call them unwise and unlearned), who always constitute the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One), on the ground that their very rule of faith withdraws them from the world’s plurality of gods to the one only true God; not understanding that, although He is the one only God, He must yet be believed in with His own economy. The numerical order and distribution of the Trinity they assume to be a division of the Unity; whereas the Unity which derives the Trinity out of its own self is so far from being destroyed, that it is actually supported by it (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 3.1).
Another early heretic, Sabellius, saw the problems with earlier forms of modalism, most notably with the idea that the Father suffered. To solve this problem, Sabellius attempted a philosophical explanation. He proposed a process theology of the Godhead in which God successively expressed Himself in three operations. The Father was the form or essence of God, but He revealed himself to man at different times in history in separate modes of expression, first as the Son, and then as the Spirit. Sabellius said that God revealed Himself as Father in creation, Son in incarnation, and Holy Ghost in regeneration and sanctification. He believed these three modes or manifestations were successive in time.
The Sabellian error was exemplified in the 1990 film, Nuns on the Run, starring Robbie Coltrane and Monty Python alumnus, Eric Idle.
Explain the Trinity.
Hmmm… well, it’s a bit of a bugger.
You’ve got the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. But the three are one – like a shamrock, my old priest used to say. “Three leaves, but one leaf.” Now, the father sent down the son, who was love, and then when he went away, he sent down the holy spirit, who came down in the form of a…
You told me already – a ghost.
No, a dove.
The dove was a ghost?
No, the ghost was a dove.
Let me try and summarize this: God is his son. And his son is God. But his son moonlights as a holy ghost, a holy spirit, and a dove. And they all send each other, even though they’re all one and the same thing.
You’ve got it. You really could be a nun!
The distinction between modalism and Trinitarianism is sometimes obscure. But simply put: a modalist believes that God is one and manifests himself in three separate modes or aspects — or one in three. Most modalists accept a distinction between the three members of the Godhead — Father, Son, Holy Spirit — but say that they are simply modes or aspects of one God. A Trinitarian believes that God is three separate persons in one God — “These three are one” (1 John 5:7).
Arianism is the heretical doctrine that teaches that Christ separate in substance from both the Father and the Holy Spirit. Arius was a presbyter in Alexandria who preached against the error of his bishop, Alexander, who taught that there was absolutely no difference between the persons of the Trinity. According to Alexander, God the Father became Jesus and suffered on the cross. In trying to avoid the error of modalistic monarchianism, Arius went to the other extreme and preached that the Son had a beginning, and was begotten of God the Father who had no beginning. The Arians essentially taught that Jesus Christ was a lesser or subordinate god to God the Father. The council of Nicea of 325 was called to settle the controversy. The Nicene Creed described the three persons of the Godhead, but did not give a succinct enough definition of the Trinity to quell Arianism. Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, opposed Arianism throughout his life until his teachings, especially those contained in his work, On the Incarnation, were compiled in what is known as the Athanasian Creed. The Athanasian Creed summarizes the view held by Athanasius who fought against the Arian heresy in the fourth century.
The Athanasian Creed says in part:
Now the catholic faith is that we worship One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is One, the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit; the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated; the father infinite, the Son infinite, and the Holy Spirit infinite; the Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet not three eternals but one eternal, as also not three infinites, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one infinite. So, likewise, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty; and yet not three almighties but one almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God; and yet not three Gods but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; and yet not three Lords but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be both God and Lord; so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, there be three Gods or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten but proceeding. So there is one Father not three Fathers, one Son not three Sons, and Holy Spirit not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less, but the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
Many Arian cults reemerged in the late 19th and early 20th century. The root of Arianism can be found in the serpent’s subtle questioning of God’s authority. “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). Arian cults begin by questioning the authority of the Word of God and the most vital doctrines of the orthodox catholic faith. Through skillful Scripture twisting, the devil has promoted the same old lie, telling modern seekers of truth, “You will not die, for God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing both good and evil” (Gen. 3:4,5). This is how Satan always contradicts the Word of God, by denying the punishment of eternal hell for unrepentant sinners, and by promising God-like status to those who depart from Truth.
The most successful cults that have promoted Arianism are Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Way, and the Unification Church. Each of these cults claims to be the one true Church of Jesus Christ. Each uses the Bible, and calls Jesus “the Son of God.” Yet a brief examination of each will show that they are Arian cults, denying the full deity of Jesus Christ, His atoning work of death on the Cross, and salvation by faith in Christ alone. These cults also have an unorthodox view of the Second Coming of Christ and eternal judgment.
Arianism in Hollywood
(Fade up to movie — thunder and lightning crucifixion scene from Ben Hur)
In 1959, MGM studios released a film that was to become one of the most loved and honored movies of all time. The story of a young man’ epic journey from nobility to slavery and back again, Ben Hur won 11 Academy Awards; a record that was not surpassed for almost 40 years.
The movie provided an awesome glimpse of the Truth that had so transformed his life: amid the epic scope and dramatic action of this lavish spectacle, one simple message stood out — the transforming power of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Decades later, hearts still swell and tears flow at the depiction of the terrible beauty of Calvary. We watch as Jesus’ blood mingles with the rain — and then flows out to the world; cleansing the leprosy that plagued Judah Ben Hur’s mother and sister — and finally even washing away the hatred that had bound his own heart. A more powerful and faithful cinematic expression of the doctrine of redemption can scarcely be imagined. Hollywood depicted the figure of Christ on the cross with such reverence, that the director refused even to show the face of Christ, perhaps fearing that a common face of an actor could not represent the majesty of the King of kings. Hollywood, with all its glitter and carnality, had truly created something that was, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Noble, lovely and true.”
This shining moment was short-lived, however. Within a few years Hollywood’s depiction of the Christian faith went in a completely different direction. After briefly examining that direction — and where we have arrived a generation later — we’ll explore some more aspects of the modern entertainment industry’s heretical view of Christ.
We hope you’ll remember the lesson learned by Judah Ben Hur — there is salvation in the blood of Christ. The same cross that silenced the blasphemies of pagan Rome can once again work a miracle in a culture gone mad. Today, some forty years later, television shows and movies attempt to twist the truth as they often mock Jesus Christ, the Christian faith, and Christian believers. The question then becomes, “How did we get to this place?”
In the years after Ben Hur was released, the USA and many nations in the West were undergoing profound social and moral changes. For many in Hollywood, the change could not occur fast enough. Around the same time, the two Christian film offices that had been active in providing moral guidelines for the entertainment industry for over thirty years were closed. New ideas — and a new breed of people — began to take their place in Hollywood. By the 1960s, we began to see in films such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell, a Jesus who is fallible, no different from any other man.
(Bring up Jesus Christ Superstar)
Lost is the mystery of the incarnate God — the divine nature of Jesus so powerfully suggested in Ben Hur. Instead we’re given the “hippy Christ” — a savior so drained of deity that one is left with the same impression expressed by Mary Magdalene in the song: “He’s just a man.”
Co-writer Timothy Rice removed any doubt about the play’s intentions when he told Time magazine: “It happens that we don’t see Christ as God, but simply the right man at the right time” (Time_, Nov. 9, 1970).
The idea that Jesus was “just a man” and not also fully divine is called “Arianism” — one of the oldest and most damnable heresies of the Christian era.
(Fade to Bible; Open to 1 John and then bring up scripture, narrator reads)
Almost two thousand years ago the Apostle John warned the Church to be on guard against its persistent influence: “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?”
And by that he doesn’t mean just-any-old Christ, but the one prophesied by the Old Testament — the One who was repeatedly called Jehovah, Adonai, Elohim, and other names for God.
(Soft cut back to Bible; bring up verse with voice-over)
Continuing with the verse: “He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
(Fade to Jesus art)
Again, implying all that the Old Testament — and Jesus Himself — said about the Son: that He was one with the Father, co-equal, and eternally pre-existent, perfectly holy, in a word — God. This is the essence, the life-blood of the Christian faith — that God the Son came to earth as a man in order to redeem man. If Jesus was not God, then there is no redemption. And this awesome truth, more than any other, hell seeks to deny.
And there’s another important dynamic going on here as well. The essence of Satanism, is simply being your own god; believing and doing whatever you want. It’s a religion, in other words, with many, many followers. And tied in with this “being your own god” idea is the notion of “becoming like God” — the original sin of man. And what inevitably happens here is this: because we are far too fallen to become like Him, well we try to make Him more like us. And so we create an idol, a false image of God that better fits into our personal agenda. And so, if Jesus was just a man, well there’s really no need to fear and obey Him, is there?
(Fade to reprise: J.C. Superstar)
The Arian heresy in print was best exemplified in the controversial, best-selling novel, The Passover Plot, by British Biblical scholar Hugh J. Schonfield. Published in 1965, it is also the name of the 1979 movie that was adapted from the book. Reformed scholar Norman Geisler offers this synopsis of the novel:
H.J. Schonfield proposed that Jesus was an innocent messianic pretender who connived to “fulfill” prophecy in order to substantiate his claims (Schonfield, 35-38). According to the plot, Jesus secretly “schemed in faith” (ibid., 173), connived with a young man, Lazarus, and Joseph of Arimathea, to feign death on the cross, revive in the tomb, and demonstrate to his disciples (who were ignorant of the plot) that he was the Messiah. However, the plan went awry when the Roman soldiers pierced Jesus’ side and he died. Nonetheless, the disciples mistook others as Christ some days later and believed he had risen from the dead (Schonfield, 170-72).
Having cracked open the door of Arianism, it was left to Martin Scorcese, one of the most acclaimed directors of our time, to slam it open.
(Show scene from The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus confesses his many sins — says that Satan dwells in him.)
The Jesus portrayed in The Last Temptation of Christ was not only “just a man,” but also a confused, weak, and sinful man at that. The film opens with him assisting the Romans with a crucifixion — and before the first reel is over we’ve seen him behave like a madman — suggest that God’s love is the cause of his madness — watch a prostitute have sex — confess his sin — and in general act like a man who desperately needs a savior rather than being one.
(Fade to open Bible)
This Jesus was completely unrecognizable from the Christ of scripture: the One who clearly knew who He was by the age of twelve …
[bring up Luke 2:49 and Gustav Doré art]
… who confronted intense physical, emotional and spiritual trials with a serenity and boldness that amazed even his enemies and who became the perfect sacrifice, the spotless Lamb of God, because He was entirely without sin (Luke 2:49).
He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
The release of The Last Temptation of Christ exposed Hollywood’s capacity to promote outright heresy and describe it as “one of the most deeply religious films ever made.” This points to a strong spiritual delusion, a type of moral insanity that has settled over much of our culture like a blanket. We have humanized God and deified man to the extent that we thinking nothing of judging, even mocking the Almighty. We flippantly take His name in vain, we manufacture false images at assembly line rates. We place so many gods before Him. We dare to ridicule the One who deigned to leave eternity, clothe Himself in human flesh, and go to a cross in order to pay the penalty for our sins.
Arianism, Ebionism and Modalism were addressed by the Athanasian Creed and the Council of Chalcedon. The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds defined Christ as being both God and man, however, there arose some further confusion over whether He was a fully integrated God-man; or a half-God, half-man having different natures at different times.
The Council of Chalcedon was called to define the nature of Christ as both fully God and fully man diminished in neither aspect. Christ alone is both God and man, He is the unique mediator between God and man. He is our only priest. The Chalcedonian Creed implies that all power and authority is invested in Christ by the Father. All human authority derives from the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Christ alone can proclaim:
“All power is given to Me on heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).
In Chalcedon, we find the union of the heavenly and the earthly. Christ was both God and man. As God, He brings the power of heaven to earth. As man, He links the eternal power of God with the temporal power on earth.
Definition of Chalcedon
Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul [meaning human soul] and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these “last days,” for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness.
We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten — in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the “properties” of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one “person” and in one reality. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers has handed down to us.
(SHOW RUSHDOONY’S COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON FROM GOD’S LAW AND SOCIETY)
The Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD declared that Jesus Christ was “very God of very God and very man of very man, truly man and truly God, two natures without confusion but in perfect union.” Now what this did was to block the possibility of any other incarnation of God. The most common such incarnation was in the state. The state either through its office or through its ruler or through a particular line was held to be divine, god walking on earth. So that the Prime Minister, like Joseph in Egypt, was a high priest. That’s why he married priest’s daughter. He could not be the Prime Minister and the high priest of Egypt without that marriage. With the Council of Chalcedon the church made clear that there could be no confusion. Jesus Christ is the unique Incarnation (R.J. Rushdoony, God’s Law and Society).
The Chalcedonian Creed is of great importance because, in a certain sense, this idea has become the foundation of Western culture. This principle defines true liberty under the law of God because it acknowledges the only valid claim of Lordship of the One who is the source of true human freedom. This would lead us to conclude that there are limits of authority in all human institutions. By implication, this creed directly challenges every false claim of Lordship by any form of government: state, church, family or individual.
Pelagianism is the doctrine that teaches that man is capable of earning his salvation by doing good works. Unlike the Ebionites, who also taught salvation by works, Pelagius was probably fully orthodox in his belief in the divinity of Christ. However, he held that human beings are born in a state of innocence, that there is no such thing as original sin. As a result of this view, he held that a state of sinless perfection was achievable in this life. He also denied that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for sin. And he denied that we are saved by God’s grace alone. Pelagius taught that Jesus, by his life and death, merely atoned for Adam’s bad example. If we work hard enough at copying Jesus’ model, we too can earn salvation.
Pelagius was refuted by St. Augustine of Hippo early in the fifth century. Augustine elaborated on the writings of earlier Christian apologists, such as Tertullian, Cyprian and Ambrose, who taught the doctrine of original sin, that through the sin of the first man, Adam, all have come into the world tainted with sin. The penalty for original sin is death for all of Adam’s descendants. Adam perished and in him we all perished. Through the fall of Adam, our free will is forever marred and we cannot ever recover a right standing with God by our own effort. Augustine wrote:
The entire mass of our nature was ruined and fell into the possession of its destroyer [the devil]. And from him no one — no, not one — has been delivered, or ever will be delivered, except by the grace of the Redeemer (Augustine, City of God).
Augustine taught that in His great mercy God predestined some to salvation and eternal life. We can be rescued from eternal damnation only by an act of God — a sovereign rebirth or a “born-again” experience.
The Council of Orange of 529 AD was an outgrowth of the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius. This controversy had to do with degree to which a human being is responsible for his own salvation, and the role of the grace of God in bringing about salvation. The Council of Orange dealt with the semi-Pelagian doctrine that the human race, though fallen and possessed of a sinful nature, is still “good enough” to able to lay hold of the grace of God through an act of unredeemed human will. The Council of Orange agreed upon a list of 25 statements, or canons, strongly condemning the semi-Pelagian error.
Here is a short excerpt from the 25 Canons of the Council of Orange:
The Canons of the Council of Orange (529 AD)
CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was “changed for the worse” through the offense of Adam’s sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20); and, “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?” (Rom. 6:16); and, “For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19).
CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam’s sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (Rom. 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).
There has always been a strong Pelagian tendency in western culture. Over the centuries, the Catholic Church and many Protestant churches have succumbed to varying degrees of semi-Pelagianism.
In recent times, man-centered heresies have most often taken the form of the religion of modernism or humanism. At first glance, humanism does not seem like a religion, because it either denies God or sees God as unimportant to man’s success and happiness in the world. But humanism is a cult, and the culture that springs out of humanism has now dominated the West for the past 150 years. Deism, rationalism, naturalism, Freudianism, Marxism, Darwinism, nihilism, and existentialism are each expressions of humanism. On the base level, they are Pelagian heresies. They each express the idea that man can save himself either through human progress, science, social engineering, evolution, psychology or philosophy. They each teach that man’s efforts can create a better world.
All modern world religions except orthodox Christianity teach some form of Pelagianism. Our human tendency in the flesh is to gravitate toward a religion of self-justification. And even while historic Christianity has maintained the tradition of the doctrine of sovereign grace, most people who have been raised in a Christian background simply do not understand the Gospel of free grace.
One good example of this misunderstanding is found in George Lucas’ television pilot, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: The Curse of the Jackal. While in Egypt as a boy of ten, Indiana Jones questions the famous archaeologist T.E. Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia, about why the ancient Egyptians mummified their Pharaohs and placed them in tombs with treasures beyond price. The following exchange is from the comic book version of the story.
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: The Curse of the Jackal
[SHOW COMIC BOOK WITH NARRATION VOICE OVER.]
WE WENT ON AND ON. I WONDERED WHY MUMMIES NEEDED THEIR THINGS IN THE TOMB WITH THEM.
They believed the spirit would remain alive and need food and shelter just like us.
Wow! Is it true?
No, Henry! It is what some Egyptians believed.
What does happen when you die?
FOR MISS SEYMOUR — A MINISTER’S DAUGHTER — THERE WAS ONLY ONE “PROPER“ANSWER!
In the television version of the story, the Christian character, Miss Seymour, tells young Indiana that those who are good will go to heaven, and those who are bad, well, she isn’t really bold enough to say it. And Miss Seymour is an accurate picture of many Christians who have heard the Gospel, but who still insist that those who do not believe in Christ might be saved through their good works.
BUT NED (MR. LAWRENCE) OPENED UP A WIDE WORLD OF DIFFERENT BELIEFS …
… FROM THE MOSLEM’S PARADISE …
… TO THE HINDU’S REINCARNATION.
Well, which one is true?!
Well, Henry, no one has ever come back to tell us. But … if you should meet a mummy one night you can ask him.
T.E. Lawrence’s advice to young Indiana Jones is likely out of character since, although he dressed like an Arab, Lawrence of Arabia advised British officers against trying to blend in with the religious customs of the Muslims.
Lawrence also wrote: “Disguise is not advisable. Except in special areas, let it be clearly known that you are a British officer and a Christian.” (“The 27 Articles of T.E. Lawrence,” from The Arab Bulletin, 20 August 1917).
In spite of this, the fictional Lawrence of Arabia in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles is portrayed as a universalist — one who sees all religions as being equal. His advice to the young Indiana Jones is reminiscent of the parable told by Jesus of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In the story, the rich man goes to hell, while the poor man, Lazarus, goes to Abraham’s side. The rich man begs Abraham to send lazarus back from the dead to his five brothers so that they might repent and not suffer the same torments in hell.
Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:29-31).
In the New Covenant, not only do we have Jesus — who really did rise from the dead — but we also have the New Testament scriptures to point the way to eternal life. And what do the scriptures tell us about the value of good works in grasping our salvation?
For by grace you have been saved through faith and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God not off works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Pelagianism is spelled out in a mock caricature of the Christian faith written and performed by John Entwistle, bass player of the legendary British rock band, The Who.
John Entwistle, “Heaven and Hell”
On top of the sky is a place where you go if you’ve done nothing wrong,
If you’ve done nothing wrong.
And down in the ground is a place where you go if you’ve been a bad boy,
If you’ve been a bad boy.
Why can’t we have eternal life,
And never die,
In the place up above you grow feather wings and you fly round and round,
With a harp singing hymns.
And down in the ground you grow horns and a tail and you carry a fork,
And burn away.
Why can’t we have eternal life, And never die,
Entwistle’s parody of the rewards of heaven and the punishment of hell is essentially the Pelagian view of a salvation that can be earned. Heaven “is a place where you go if you’ve done nothing wrong.” Hell “is a place where you go if you’ve been a bad boy.” The image of heaven offered here is of the stereotypical tale of saints who “grow feather wings and fly round and round with a harp singing hymns” and of hell “down in the ground” where you “grow horns and a tail and you carry a fork and burn away.”
Surprisingly, these images are found nowhere in the Bible! These ideas come to us through Renaissance artists who mixed biblical imagery with the pagan mythology of the Greeks and Romans in their paintings. Again, the popular conception of salvation being playfully mocked here is not the Christian view at all, but rather the heretical view based on pagan philosophy.
The refrain of “Heaven and Hell” asks a question, “Why can’t we have eternal life, And never die, Never die?” The eternal life Entwistle desires is physical immortality — not an eternal home in heaven or hell. The stereotype of heaven and hell presented here actually deters many people from seeking to know what will happen to them after they die. But it might come as a surprise to many that “eternal life” spoken of in the Bible is not only the after life, but the quality of life in the here and now.
Most Christians are familiar with the famous salvation scripture, John 3:16, which says in context:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:14-16).
And what is the definition of eternal life? According to Jesus:
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3).
While an eternal reward in heaven is one of the promises of salvation, eternal life is a relationship with God in which we can know Him in the same way that children know their Father.
Arthur (“Fallen Knights”)
CUT TO SCENE OF A YOUNG BOY RUNNING OVER GRASS PLAINS. LOOKING DOWN AT A LAKE WHERE WOMEN ARE WASHING CLOTHES. HE SMILES AND RUNS DOWN TO THEM.
Mother! I’m finished.
ARTHUR’S MOTHER CLEANS CLOTHES AT THE LAKE. ARTHUR SHOWS HER A SMALL CLAY TABLET.
ARTHUR CLEANS THE TABLET THEN TAKES IT OUT OF THE WATER TO REVEAL A FACE ON IT AND PELAGIUS WRITTEN AT THE SIDE. HE LOOKS AT IT FOR A MOMENT.
ARTHUR TURNS TO SEE THAT HIS MOTHER HAD WALKED OFF. SHE WAVES AT HIM AND CONTINUES TO WALK.
ARTHUR NOTICES SOMEONE ELSE IS WITH HIM AT THE WATER.
Pelagius! For you!
ARTHUR HANDS THE CLAY TABLET TO PELAGIUS WHO WAS SADDLING A HORSE. PELAGIUS TURNS IT OVER IN HIS HANDS.
Well done Artorius. You keep it.
HANDS THE THING BACK TO ARTHUR WHO LOOKS A LITTLE REJECTED.
Deliver it to me when you come to Rome.
HORSE WHINNIES AND YOUNG ARTHUR LOOKS UP TO SEE RIDERS ON A HILL IN THE DISTANCE.
PELAGIUS TAKES HIM BY THE SHOULDERS AND GUIDES ARTHUR TO LOOK AT THE RIDERS.
Come Arthur. Look. Young Knights.
If you so choose, they may someday be yours to lead, as your father before you.
YOUNG ARTHURS LOOKS UP AT PELAGIUS. SCENES SWITCH BETWEEN ONE YOUNG KNIGHT AND THE NEXT.
I am to be their commander?
Yes. But with this title comes a sacred responsibility to protect, to defend, to value their lives above your own and, should they perish in battle, to live your life gloriously in honour of their memory.
PELAGIUS NOW IN ON HIS HUNKERS AND IS HOLDING YOUNG ARTHUR BY THE SHOULDERS.
And what of their free will?
It has always fallen to a few to sacrifice for the good of many. The world isn’t a perfect place, but perhaps people like you, Arthur, and me and them can make it so.
PELGIUS BIG SMILES. ARTHUR CARRIES ON WATCHING YOUNG KNIGHTS ON HILL AS PELAGIUS READIES HIS HORSE. ONE KNIGHT ARTHUR SEEMS TO WATCH LONGER THAN THE REST, WE ALL RECOGNISE AS LITTLE LANCELOT.
Many historians believe that Arthur was a Briton king who fought against the Saxon invaders in the late fifth and early sixth centuries. In the next two hundred years, Arthur became a legendary hero in the poetry of that era. Finally, in the Midde Ages, the Arthur legend took on the form that we know through the works of authors such as Mallory and Tennyson. Historian John Davies writes:
Although some historians doubt whether Arthur was a historical figure at all, it is reasonable to believe that a man of that name did exist and that he was the leader of Brythonic forces…. It is credible also that his forces won a victory of importance in about 496 and that he was killed — or that he vanished — in about 515, following the battle of Camlann … (John Davies, A History of Wales).
Other versions of history claim that Arthur was a southern prince of the Britons who fought the Saxons at Mount Badon in 520 A.D. Others have him as the builder of a fortress known as Cadbury Castle earlier in the fifth century. There is no mention at all, however, in all of Arthurian literature of the king’s relationship with Morgan — the British monk known to St. Augustine as Pelagius. If Arthur existed at all, he would have lived a full century after Pelagius, who was born around 350 A.D. and first came to Rome some time in the 380s. Even if Arthur had lived earlier in the fifth century, it is doubtful that he ever would have known Pelagius who traveled to Palestine in the last years of his life and disappeared from history after 418 A.D. This makes one wonder why the character of Pelagius is forced into the script of King Arthur: Fallen Knights, a film that, in its trailers, claims to tell the “true story” behind the legend.
CUT TO BISHOP IN ARTHUR’S QUARTERS, RUMMAGING THROUGH HIS STUFF. HE SEES A COIN WITH PELAGIUS’ FACE ON IT.
(fingering coin) Pelagius…
(making the bed) Very kind of Arthur to give up his room. But of course, it is to be expected.
(looks at the coin some more)
(nonchalantly drops it behind him and it smashes)
As the film progresses, it becomes clear that the spiritual theme of Arthur is the glorification of Pelagian theology over the sinister motives of the visiting bishop from Rome.
The Pope’s taken a personal interest in you. He inquires after each of you, and is curious to know if your knights have converted to the word of Our Savior or…-
They retain the religion of their forefathers. I’ve never questioned that.
Oh-of course, of course. They are pagans.
GALAHAD AND OTHER KNIGHTS SHIFT SOMEWHAT UNEASILY
For our part, the church has deemed such beliefs innocence.
But you, Arthur. Your path to God is through Pelagius? I saw his image in your room.
He took my father’s place for me. His teachings on free will and equality have been of great influence. I look forward to our reunion in Rome.
ARTHUR RIDES TO ALECTO
I’m sorry for your loss.
My father lost his way. He used to say, the church is there to help us stay on our path. It didn’t help those he made suffer.
The path he chose was beyond the reach of the church, Alecto.
But not of Rome. What my father believed, so Rome believes.
What, that some men are born to be slaves? No, that isn’t true.
It is so! He told me so.
Pelagius, a man as close to me as any there, is now teaching that all men are free. Equal. And that each of us has the right to choose his own destiny.
Teach? How? They killed Pelagius. A year past. Germanius and the others were damned by his teachings. They had him excommunicated and killed. The Rome you talk of doesn’t exist.
(tearing) Except in your dreams.
ARTHUR’S HORSE SLOWS AS HE SIMPLY STARES AT ALECTO, STUNNED
Aside from the fact that there is no historical record that Pelagius was ever executed for heresy, it is clear that the overriding message of the film is to teach that man through his free will has the power to choose his own destiny.
Pelagius told me once there is no worse death, (voice breaks, he is obviously trying not to cry) than the end of hope.
GUINEVERE: (looks almost disbelievingly at Arthur)
You and I are not the polite people that live in poems. (Arthur looks at her.) We are blessed and cursed by our times.
Perhaps the curse is of our own making.
And the blessing.
The essence of Pelagianism here is that there is no original sin, “the curse is of our own making.” And salvation or “the blessing” can be earned through our good works.
The writer of the film script, David Franzoni, who also wrote Gladiator, chose to portray the conflict between Arthur and the Roman bishop as one of theology — Pelagianism versus the established Augustinianism of the fifth century Catholic Church. He could just as easily have pitted a devout Christian versus a corrupt leader without the anachronistic reference. But even though the vast majority of viewers will have no idea who Pelagius was, there is clearly another agenda here that becomes all the more obvious when the parallels are brought to light.
Like Marcus Aurelius, the real life character in Gladiator, Pelagius was possibly influenced by the Roman Stoic philosophy that emphasized the possibility of human virtue. Accordingly, David Franzoni’s Arthur talks constantly about doing honorable things, choosing one’s own destiny and the power of equality and free will.
For a fuller discussion of how Pelagianism was refuted by Augustinian and Reformed theology, be sure to see Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism, available through the Apologetics Group online store listed under the resource menu of this DVD.
Anti-Law heresies: Legalism and Antinomianism
Hopefully, we understand that we can in no way earn righteousness or right standing with God by works of the Law, for “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20). “Righteousness is a gift of God” (Rom. 5:17) which comes to us through faith in Christ (Eph.2:8,9).
The idea that man is able to keep the law under his own power and please God is the heresy of Pelagianism, more commonly known as legalism.
Legalism can be defined in two ways:
(1) That obedience to the Law is the means by which we are saved; or
(2) When rules or traditions of men are instituted as a standard of righteousness.
However, the phrase “we are not under the Law” (Rom. 6:14-15) has been stretched to the biblical breaking point. Christians often flippantly dismiss sacred truth with that smug answer, not knowing what it means. We are not under the Law as a means of obtaining salvation, and as Christians, we are not under the curse even though we are still bound by the moral dictates of the Law, such as the Ten Commandments. Jesus said, “Do not think that I come to abolish the Law, or the Prophets: I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Paul wrote, “Do we nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law” (Rom. 3:31).
Self-assured Christians who throw out the Law and smugly declare that they only “preach grace” are sorely mistaken. One major reason we have so few real, lasting conversions is because we don’t preach the Law before we preach grace.
Antinomianism means literally, “anti-law,” a position stating that since Christians are saved by faith alone, we are no longer bound to obey the moral Law of God. Antinomianism is heresy because it creates a system of theology in which the moral Law of God cannot be applied as a standard of righteousness for governing individuals or society. Antinomianism is essentially the belief that Jesus can be Savior without being Lord. It is the preaching of “cheap grace” that the standard of righteousness for a Christian is no different than the standard for those in the world. It is the idea that Christians are merely “poor, wretched sinners saved by grace” rather than sanctified believers.
A perfect example of both Christian legalism and antinomianism is found in the 2004 film, Saved!, starring Mandy Moore, Jena Malone and Macauly Culkin. The basic situation of the film is that Mary, played by Jena Malone, is the part of a clique in a Christian school ruled by the snobbiest and most popular girl, Hilary, played by Mandy Moore.
Just before senior year starts, Mary’s boyfriend, Dean, tells her that he thinks he’s gay, and she decides to cure him. The satiric complication is that Mary sacrifices her virginity to conquer Dean’s homosexuality. As a result, Mary becomes pregnant and her sin is discovered while she is contemplating having an abortion.
[SHOW PLANNED PARENTHOOD SCENE FROM SAVED!]
Mary is immediately rejected by Hilary and her self-righteous cohorts and is forced to join the opposition made up of outcasts, nonconformists and rebels. Her fallen condition sets up the movie’s message, which is that Christians should be tolerant of human fallibility and difference. And as Christians we ought to be receptive to this sort of criticism even when it comes from non-believers.
The film works in one way as a satire to show that Christians can often be cruel and legalistic toward the fallen and outcast rather than displaying the love of Christ. However, it falls flat in offering the solution to this attitude. Rather than preaching a grace that offers the forgiven a power over sin, Saved! offers instead the opposite error. The antinomian message of the film is delivered in a series of speeches during the big prom-night climax.
[SHOW PROM SPEECHES FROM SAVED!]
Macauly Culkin, who plays Hilary’s handicapped brother Roland, one of the outcasts that Mary is forced to embrace, offered this analysis:
It’s a really faith-based movie with a good Christian message. The basis of any religion, let alone anything Christ-related, is be a good person, be good to the people around you and accept them for who they are. And that’s it, whether you’re a Buddhist or anything like that, that’s the message, be good, accept people for what they are, no matter what their faith is. I think overall it’s a good Christian message. I hope Christians get it, I hope they really dig it. — Macauly Culkin.
The Gospel message preached by Jesus Himself certainly is a message of love, forgiveness and acceptance. However, despite Macauly Culkin’s sincere hope that whether you are a Buddhist or a Christian, the message of all religions is “be good” and “accept people for who they are” is at one time both legalistic and antinomian.
Two stories in the Gospels that record encounters of Jesus with sinners will serve our point.
The first encounter is with the rich young ruler.
Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. (Luke 18:18-23).
Note that as soon as the man asks this question, Jesus is quick to point out that there is only One who is good. Although this man wanted to be assured in his own self-righteousness, Jesus quickly showed Him that he, in fact, fell short of the Law, showing no compassion to the poor and preferring the riches of this life instead of a reward in heaven. This position is exemplified in the movie Saved! by the self-righteous Hilary who claims to love Jesus, but shows no compassion to those who need it most.
[SHOW BIBLE THROWING CLIP: “I DO SO LOVE JESUS!”]
James illustrates this truth in his general epistle:
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).
The second encounter is with the woman taken in adultery.
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:3-11).
One of the most quoted and yet misinterpreted verses in all of scripture is: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It is important to realize here that Jesus was dealing with two types of people. The unrepentant Pharisees wanted nothing less than to accuse Jesus of usurping the authority of the Roman magistrates in judging a crime, so they could have Him executed. Knowing their hearts, he refused to hear their accusations and instead exposed their sin. The woman caught in adultery is a repentant sinner. When the Pharisees failed to condemn her, Jesus said: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
The antinomian is attracted to the first statement of Jesus condemning those who would cast stones. However, the resulting statement — “Go and sin no more” is rarely alluded to. The cabal of rebels portrayed in Saved! are good candidates for God’s love and grace. Yet sadly the Gospel message presented by Mary, although it includes, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” and, “Neither do I condemn you,” leaves out the most important part, “Go and sin no more.”
[SHOW AGAIN PROM SPEECHES FROM SAVED!]
The antinomian message here is: “I love you just the way you are, go and continue in your sin.” Faith in God involves more than a mental assent or a desire for forgiveness. Saving faith is a transforming work of grace. As James put it:
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:19,20)
From both of these stories, we see that our salvation does not consist in good works, and yet true salvation will always produce a love of God shown through good works.
For a more complete view of how God’s law related both to the individual and society, we recommend the video, God’s Law and Society available through the Apologetics Group online store listed under the resource menu of this DVD.
Chiliasm: “End-times Madness”
[Clips from movies about the End-times]
Chiliasm is an unscriptural preoccupation with date-setting for the Second Coming of Christ. There are a number of different theories about the end-times that orthodox Christians throughout the centuries have embraced. While we cannot in so short a space delve into the intricacies of eschatology (or the study of the last things), the study of eschatology is divided into three major belief systems: historic premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism.
These differing views of eschatology do not determine biblical orthodoxy. All Christians believe in the literal, physical return of Jesus Christ. Christians may differ in their opinions as to the nature of the millennium and the exact sequence of end-times events. However, at either extreme of the eschatological spectrum we find the heresies of Chiliasm and Hymanaeism.
Also known as millennarianism or “millennium madness,” Chiliasm is derived from Greek word for “thousand,” chilias. Chiliasm is an unscriptural preoccupation with date-setting for the Second Coming of Christ. This error first appeared in the first century in the Church of Thessanonica. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians deal in part with this church’s obsessive speculations and false teachings about the imminent return of Christ. Chiliasm was also condemned by the Church Fathers.
A Chiliast is a person who teaches that the “thousand year” reign of Christ depicted by John in Revelation 20, is an earthly, imminent kingdom. Chiliasts like to make predictions as to the exact date of the premillennial return of Jesus Christ. Chiliasts believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and are orthodox in this sense, but they overemphasize the return of Christ and hold to unbiblical doctrines relating to Christ’s kingdom. The Bible teaches that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); nor does it consist of earthly things (Rom. 14:17). Jesus said to His disciples concerning His Second Coming: “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His authority” (Acts 1:7).
Hymanaeism is named for the first century heretic, Hymanaeus, who is named in Paul’s writings as one of those “who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past” (1 Tim. 2:17,18).
Hymanaeism is also known as “hyper-preterism” or “consistent preterism.” Preterism means literally, “before.” Preterism is a method of biblical interpretation that places the fulfillment of many biblical prophecies in the context of biblical times. Instead of placing every biblical prophecy in the near future, consistent preterism places every biblical prophecy, including Christ’s Second Coming, during the time of the Bible, hence the term: hyper-preterism.
This is the opposite of the Chiliastic heresy. Instead of being overly preoccupied with the Second Coming of Christ, the hyper-preterist denies that Christ is yet to return. Instead he spiritualizes the Second Coming and claims that this event already occurred with the coming of the Kingdom of God sometime in the first century. Hyper-preterists teach that Christ’s Second Coming occurred soon after Christ’s resurrection, either at Pentecost or at the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Although not a large group, Hymanaeism is a grave threat to biblical orthodoxy. Hymenaeism is a primary heresy, far more serious than Chiliasm or dispensationalism, as it completely denies one of the essential tenets of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds that Christ will come again, physically to the earth, to judge the living and the dead.
Personally, I’d be willing to bet the farm that one of the three historic millennial views is correct. However, Hymanaeism and Chiliasm and are clearly unbiblical errors, and must be avoided.
Let’s look briefly at a few films that have reinforced the chiliastic heresy in our lifetime.
[SCENES FROM THE OMEN AND THE SEVENTH SIGN]
Unfortunately, some of the worst examples of films depicting an unscriptural view of date setting come from within the Christian church itself.
[SCENES FROM THE OMEGA CODE AND LEFT BEHIND]
For a more in depth look at the view of eschatology called postmillennialism, we recommend this DVD, The Beast of Revelation: Identified which examines the prophecy of Revelation from a moderate preterist and postmillennial viewpoint. This two-and-a half-hour long presentation is available through the Apologetics Group online store listed under the resource menu of this DVD.
Paganism is a broad term for religions that worship more than one god. After the time of the Tower of Babel, most ancient religions were polytheistic, including those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Canaan, Greece, Rome, Northern Europe, and aboriginal peoples throughout the world.
The Apostle John writes that mystery religions had their origin in Babylon (Rev. 17). This same region of the world was also the site of the Tower of Babel, where ancient man built a tower reaching towards the heavens. This was either an attempt to worship a false god or to attain god-like status for a man. According to the Bible, the Lord confused the languages of man at the Tower of Babel and “scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:8). The result of this judgment was paganism or polytheism — the worship of many gods.
Together with the spread of Eastern Mysticism, we have seen a revival of ancient pagan religions, especially Wicca. Feminist spirituality has found fertile ground in North America, popular with feminists here in America as well as in Canada. The philosophies of relativism and existentialism have proved to be wonderful compost for feminist spirituality’s growth. Feminist spirituality teaches women they are goddesses. Since truth is whatever a goddess determines it to be, feminist spirituality answers our society’s longing for religious identification but does not demand obedience to a transcendent, absolute truth.
Feminists believe the goddess will “shake, rattle, and roll the status quo right off its pedestal” (Sheryll Hirschberger, “Speaking Honestly About the Goddess,” Cape Woman, p. 29, Summer/Fall, 1999, Vol. 2, No. 1).
Feminist spirituality is considered the fastest growing faction of feminism. It evolved from feminist theology, the sexual liberation movement and radical environmentalism that defined the 1960s and 1970s.
Anjelica Huston’s $35,000 gold and citrine necklace imprinted with the Greek goddess Rhea reveals the fascination celebrities have with feminist spirituality. Hollywood personalities Olympia Dukakis and Cybill Shepherd are blatant in their worship of the goddess.
Singer Tori Amos; the movies Practical Magic starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman with the tag “There’s a little witch in every woman;” The Craft starring Neve Campbell; the Albert Brooks comedy about a goddess titled, The Muse; and television programs such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed have done much to popularize goddess worship among teenagers. The program Sabrina, about a kindly teenage witch, was once rated prime time’s number one show among the preteen set.
The popular Internet site and board game “Go Goddess!” teaches our daughters “There’s a goddess in every girl!” The Internet site instructs girls to identify with various goddesses and a game called “Goddess Guide Me!” allows for players to ask the goddesses questions about life. (Go Goddess, “There’s a Goddess in Every Girl! Which One Are You?” Go Goddess.
Moving beyond pop culture, such books as — Teen Goddess: How to Look, Love and Live Like a Goddess and Maiden Magick: A Teens Guide to Goddess Wisdom and Ritual — make feminist spirituality accessible to even our youngest children.
Visit any college ground or university campus, channel surf with your remote control during prime time, browse the Internet, or frequent the trendy boutiques your daughter shops at and you will find overt feminist spirituality. Green goddess salad dressing, bronze goddess nail polish, a line of Bob Mackie designer goddess Barbie dolls.
We have only here scratched the surface. Wiccan, Pagan, satanic, and vampire cults abound in today’s American culture. Far from being a fringe movement, pagan spirituality is now mainstream.
Why should we as Christians care about pagan spirituality? For starters, we must recognize that Jesus Christ is the one legitimate source of spirituality. But going beyond this, He is also the single legitimate sacrifice for our sins. The failure to eliminate the worship of false gods and pagan sacrifices is what brought ancient Israel under God’s judgment time and again in Old Testament history. If this is how God dealt with His chosen people under the Old Covenant, then how can we expect to escape the same judgment?
The writer of Hebrews warns us:
Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:28-31).
The question, my friends, is not, “Why, should we care?” The question is, “What shall we do?”
(Complied from Wilcox, Kendra, Abortion Rites, unpublished manuscript).
Questions on Christology
More than any other area of orthodoxy, modern Christians are most often ignorant of Christology. The following questions are designed to make you realize the importance of understanding the true nature of Jesus Christ. Try to answer the questions using your own knowledge of scripture before moving on in this presentation for the answers.
1. Was it possible for Christ to sin?
2. Where did Christ go between His death and resurrection?
3. At the Incarnation, why did Christ empty himself of some of His divine attributes?
4. Why is the resurrection of Christ important?
5. What is Christ doing now?
6. Are any of these issues essential to the Christian faith? Which are not? Why?
7. Can we know by studying scripture when Christ will return?
If you had trouble answering any of these questions, you need a better understanding of Christology!
The great third century Christian apologist, Athanasius, compiled a simple, clear and concise argument in favor of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His work, On the Incarnation, was essentially the first systematic attempt at a Christology — a set of teachings on the birth, life, death, resurrection, heavenly reign and second coming of Jesus Christ. The work was profound enough to compel scholars of his day, and also lucid enough to serve as a set of teachings for the common people. Athanasius’ work was directed primarily at skeptics who denied the deity of Jesus Christ.
The basic outline of Christology since the time of Athanasius has included the following seven points of teaching:
1. Incarnation — Two natures — full deity and full humanity — are inseparably united in the one person of Christ. His full humanity is supported by Scripture: (Jn. 8:40; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 2:14,17). His full deity is likewise supported: (Jn. 1:1-3; 10; 30; Heb. 1:10-12; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9). Because man brought sin and death into the world (Rom. 5:12-19), Christ the only begotten Son of God became man in order to die for our sins and become a true mediator-priest (Heb. 2:17,18). Further, Christ vicariously lived a perfect life for us (Lk. 4:1,2; Jas. 1:13) that He might reveal God to us (Jn. 1:18; Heb. 1:1-3) and so that righteousness could be imputed to man through His sinless life (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Jn. 3:5).
2. Kenosis — When discussing the full deity and full humanity of Jesus, it is important to distinguish the divine nature of Christ from his human nature. At the incarnation, Jesus in his human nature gave up not only the environment of the Godhead and his position as Ruler, but also the use of his divine attributes. Jesus temporarily demonstrated non-use of His own omniscience (Mt. 24:36), omnipotence (Mk. 6:5), omnipresence (Jn. 4:4), righteousness (Heb. 4:15; 9:14), justice (Jn. 5:30), and immortality (1 Cor. 15:3) in his human nature. The key scripture for kenosis is Philippians 2:6,7. Jesus did not hold onto His equality with God, but rather “emptied” (Greek: kenoo) Himself of His divine privileges. Jesus could “do nothing of Himself” (Jn. 5:19), but “the Father abiding in Him does His works” (Jn. 14:28). Jesus was made like us in all things. Jesus lived a holy life by the same means given to us — by dependence on God and the power of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:10-17). (It is important to distinguish this view from a heretical view of kenosis that would insist that Jesus Christ emptied himself of his divine nature or his divine attributes.)
3. Descent — Between his death and resurrection, Jesus visited the waiting place of the dead (Hades, Sheol, or Hell). There Christ announced his victory and their salvation to Old Testament believers (1 Pet. 4:6). He proclaimed defeat and judgment to either Noahic demons or the unbelievers of Noah’s day. (1 Pet. 3:19). “Descent” (Eph. 4:9) may refer either to the incarnation, Christ’s burial, or the underworld. The meaning of the above passages have been disputed by modern scholars, but the Church Fathers unanimously taught that at His death Jesus really died and went to hell in our place. In the words of the Apostles’ Creed, “He descended into hell.”
4. Resurrection — Christ rose bodily from the dead, resulting in an empty tomb. Theories that the resurrection was spiritual or in the minds of the apostles are excluded. This testifies to the authority and truthfulness of Jesus and His message (Mt. 12:39,40; Jn. 2:19; 1 Cor. 15:14). It objectively demonstrates our forgiveness: that Christ’s death was effective for forgiving sins (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:17; 1 Pet. 1:3). The image of the Old Testament priest re-emerging from the Holy of Holies is alluded to in the book of Hebrews and elsewhere. The fact that the priest survived was evidence that God had accepted the sacrifice. It affirms the fact of the believer’s future resurrection and eternal life (1 Cor. 15:18-23). It assures the believer’s position in Christ (Rom. 6:4,5; Eph. 2:6) and the power to live the Christian life (Eph. 1:19,20).
5. Ascension — Christ’s resurrected body was literally taken up into the sky, and He is seated at the right hand of God in heaven. He presented His body as a living and eternal sacrifice to the Father (Heb. 9:14). He went to prepare a place for believers (Jn. 14:2,3). He went to be glorified and to allow the Holy Spirit to be sent to the church (Jn. 7:38,39).
6. Session — Christ sits at the right hand of God, interceding for believers and guiding the church as its head during the present age. He mediates between us and the Father (1 Jn. 2:1,2; Heb. 7:25). He rules and guides the Church (Eph. 1:20,23). He rules over the nations with all authority (Psalm 110).
7. Second Advent — Christ will physically return to earth to rule, descending bodily from the sky (Acts 1:9-11). He will rule the resurrected saints as king (Rev. 21:1-4). He will reward the members of the church for their deeds done in the body (2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Cor. 3:10-15).
We’ve included this Bible study on Christology under the resource menu of this DVD. We hope that you will consider each point and examine these scriptures in personal or group study.
Orthodox, creedal Christianity is the basis for human freedom. In the Christian faith, the idea of the Trinity — one God, three persons — is ultimately important. Each person of the Trinity is of equal importance, but submission to the Father is always maintained and unity in the Godhead is always preserved. Likewise, when the Christian is freed from sin, he bows his knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. The old man dies, but a new free man emerges. When both unity and individuality are in their proper God-given roles, man transcends himself. He is in communion with God, free from his own sinful state, free from the tyranny of the flesh, the devil and the world.
Man’s freedom from sin is only realizable by faith in Christ alone. Gnosticism, Modalism, Arianism, Pelagianism, legalism and any effort of man to save himself result only in frustration and the ultimate form of rebellion against God: apostasy, or “the sin that leads to death” (1 John 5:16). Heretical notions of the nature of God and the nature of man have been basic to the decline of the Church in our century. What is true salvation? Is it by man’s effort or God’s grace? Man needs a savior, and he will choose one or the other: Christ or man. No man can choose the one without denying the other. All attempts at compromise are a symptom of the delusional self.
Christianity made possible Western liberty. And now the absence of this revelation has led us to the oppressive presence of man as the ultimate authority. Western liberty began when “No king but Christ!” became the church’s battle cry. Blood was spilt as a result of the early Church’s defiance of Caesar’s claim to be Lord. Whenever Christ ceases to be fully both Savior and Lord, liberty perishes and fascism — as a fully articulated pagan philosophy — arises promising a false messiah. History is replete with man’s attempt to be his own savior. The Roman Caesars, the medieval popes, Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Napoleon, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Adolf Hitler have each sought to destroy Christianity and replace it with an Antichrist religion. Man’s idea of the individual becoming his own god, or a superman able to save himself, ultimately leads to the absolute of totalitarianism.
Christological heresies threaten more than salvation of individuals and the success of the Church. The emergence of cults is a sign that Western liberty is eroding. The battle against heresy within the Church must be taken seriously. It is as serious as if a Hitler or a Napoleon invaded your country. The call to arms and our obedient response is a matter of life and death — both in time and eternity.
As we mentioned earlier in our presentation, in order to be successful in any war, you must know your enemy. You cannot fight what you do not know. Recognize the signs of the times and educate yourself to Arian cults, Gnosticism and the New Age movement. Educate yourself about Wiccan, Pagan, satanic, and Gothic vampire cults. Educate yourself as to what young people are learning in the public schools and on college campuses. The enemy is gathering his army and even now is on the attack. This is your call to prepare for all out war!