Christological Heresies

Greg Strand – October 24, 2012 Leave a comment

The past couple of days we have looked at the Chalcedonian Creed, and what is both explicitly affirmed and implicitly denied in the Creed. Below I am repeating the implicit, heretical denials from yesterday. Today we are going to do an exercise with them. Consider this a quiz.

Bearing in mind the orthodox truth of Jesus being “one Person, two natures,” the Person Jesus Christ is both fully and truly God and fully and truly man,  go through the specific heresies below and determine the specific error – is it regarding His Person or natures? I have removed the parenthetical explanations from yesterday and included answers at the conclusion of this post.

  1. Against the Docetists it declared that the Lord Jesus Christ was perfect in manness, truly man, consubstantial with us (homoousion, not homoiousion, i.e. he is not of “like substance or being” with us, but he is “of the same substance” with us) according to manness, and born of Mary.
  2. Against the Samosatian adoptionists it insisted upon the personal subsistence of the Logos “begotten of the Father before the ages.”
  3. Against the Sabellians it distinguished the Son from the Father both by the titles of “Father” and “Son” and by its reference to the Father having begotten the Son before all ages.
  4. Against the Arians it affirmed that the Lord Jesus Christ was perfect in deity, truly God, and consubstantial with the Father (homoousion, not homoiousion, i.e. he is not of “like substance or being” with the Father, but he is “of the same substance” with the Father). (An earlier version of this was known as Ebionism.)
  5. Against the Apollinarians, who had reduced Jesus’ manness to a body and an “animal soul” (psyche alogos), it declared that Jesus had a “rational soul” (psyche logike), that is, a “spirit.”
  6. Against the Nestorians it both described Mary as theotokos, i.e. the God-bearer (not Christotokos, i.e. the Christ bearer, emphasizing that Mary bore the man Jesus, undermining that she actually bore the God-man Jesus) not in order to exalt Mary in the slightest, but in order to affirm Jesus’ true deity and the fact of a real incarnation, and spoke throughout of one and the same Son and one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons and whose natures are in union without division and without separation.
  7. Finally, against the Eutychians it confessed that in Christ were two natures without confusion and without change, the property of each nature being preserved and concurring in the one person.

Docetists denied the humanity of Jesus, He only appeared to be human.

Samosatian adoptionists denied the deity of Jesus, but claim that at some point in His life He was “adopted” by God to this unique role of divine sonship.

Sabellians denied the unique Person of Jesus as the second Person of the Trinity (in speaking of Jesus Christ, the orthodox position is “one Person, two natures”; in speaking of the Trinity, the orthodox position is that “there is one God, God eternally exists as three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – each Person is fully God”).

Arians denied the deity of Jesus, though he is the greatest of created beings.

Ebionists denied the deity of Jesus, concluding this would be polytheistic.

Apollinarians denied the full humanity of Jesus, concluding Jesus had a human body but a divine mind and spirit.

Nestorians denied that Jesus is one Person, concluding He consisted of two separate persons, human and divine.

Eutychians denied that Jesus had two natures, concluding that the human nature was absorbed by the divine nature, thus creating a third kind of nature.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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