Part II - The Ante-Nicene Age: Lesson No. 9 - Monarchianism

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I. Introduction

Probably no controversy among so-called "Christians" has been waged so long, so bitterly, and so seemingly irresolvably as the controversy pertaining to the person, nature, and work of Christ. These issues have led to the recognition of a branch of theology known as Christologywhich addresses itself to the relationship of the divine and human natures in Christ and His relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit within the Trinity. Volumes have been written on this one aspect of the gospel alone, and a wide variety of Christological views have been adopted and advocated through the centuries. At the very core of the Christian's faith is his conception of the person, nature, and work of Christ. Therefore it behooves him to know what the Scriptures teach on these subjects and form his convictions accordingly.

II. Three Christologies

A. Logos" Christology. "Logos" is the Greek term, translated "word," which John uses to refer to Christ who was God manifested in the flesh (Jn. 1:1,14; I Jn. l:1; Rev. 19:13). "Logos" Christology asserts that the one God is a trinity ("three in one") which consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Since the Son and the Holy Spirit emanate from the Father, they are subordinate to Him. Jesus had a two-fold nature — human and divine. However, Christ existed as part of the Godhead before, during, and after His incarnation. Tertullian (c. 150-225), who championed these views, had been a Carthaginian lawyer but was converted 190-195. About 200 he broke with the "Catholic" church and embraced Montanism. He was the first ecclesiastical writer of prominence to use Latin and thus became known as the "father of Latin theology."

B. Dynamic Monarchianism. Undoubtedly, Gnosticism's attacks upon the Christians' conceptions of the nature of Christ stimulated a more studious attention to this subject. However, the common believers had great difficulty in distinguishing between the concept of a Trinity and outright polytheism. Many of them found an alternative in Monarchianism, or Unitarianism, which asserted that God was only one being. The Monarchians were divided into two, quite different classes. The Dynamic Monarchians held that Jesus became the Son of God by adoption — that at His baptism the Christ, or the holy Spirit, or some divine power (Greek "dumanis"), descended upon Him. Some Dynamic Monarchians were unwilling to give Jesus any title to deity, while others said He became divine in some sense at His resurrection.

C. Modalistic Monarchianism. This second class of Monarchians held that the one God manifested Himself in three different modes, of which Christ was but one temporary manifestation . A main promoter of this type of thinking was a certain Sabellius who taught in Rome in the early Third Century. He taught that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. Father, "Son," and "Holy Spirit" are simply different names of the one God who manifested Himself in three different ways — the Father-lawgiver of the Old Testament, the incarnate Son, and the Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles. Sabellius was excommunicated in Rome but found large followings in North Africa and the East. After much controversy the West began to settle upon the Logos Christology, but the East continued in a divided state on these matters. Christological controversy would continue and would eventually prompt the emperor Constantine to summon the council of Nicea in 325.

III. Exercises (Please click on "File" on your browser window, then "Print" to print out this page.)

(1) What is "Christology?"

(2) What is the primary difference between the "Logos" and Monarchian schools of Christology?

(3) ______________ was a leader in the "Logos" school while ________________ was an outstanding leader in the Monarchian school.

(4) What Scriptures teach that "God" consists of a plurality of beings?

(5) Do the Scriptures also teach that God is one (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:6; Jn. 10:30; I Tim. 1:17)?

If so, in what sense are they "one" (cp. Jn. 17:20, 21; I Cor. 1:10; 3:6, 8; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 5: 31)?

(6) What did Jesus mean when He said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (Jn. 14:9; cp. 12:45)?

(7) What did Jesus mean when He said that He was in the Father and the Father was in Him (Jn. 14:11; cp. Jn. 15:7)?

(8) What Scriptures prove that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all divine beings?

(9) What Scriptures prove that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings?

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