Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A difference of opinion

Warning: Seriously Long Post
The Young Fogey commented on my Trinity Sunday sermon. For those who don't know, YF is a very conservative blogger and he and I have had our differences of opinion in the past that, at one time, got relatively nasty. But we seem to have gotten over that and come to the conclusion that, even though we don't see eye to eye, we can still have a decent discourse. And despite the fact that I don't always agree with him and the conservative stances he takes, I'm quite convinced that he wouldn't try to steal the goods if he were ever to leave his church.

So . . . back on track here. He seemed to like my Trinity sermon (said I scored a touchdown -- thank you), but also had this to say:

One quibble:

[Arianism] became a competing form of Christianity...

Actually like Islam, Unitarianism, Mormonism, the Jehovah's Witnesses and oneness Pentecostalism it had Jesus in it but wasn't Christian.

And here we disagree. I stand by my comment that Arianism was a competing form of Christianity. At a time in Christian history when we were still working out the kinks (so to speak), Arius was also trying to work out the whole concept of the Godhead. In short, he was a Christian priest, declared heretic, reinstated, and eventually and finally declared heretic.

Here's some food for thought on my statement that Arianism was a competing form of Christianity:

Arius posed the question, "Is Jesus unbegotten?" In other words, he taught that God the Father and the Son did not exist together eternally. Further, Arius taught that the pre-incarnate Jesus was a divine being created by (and possibly inferior to) the Father at some point, before which the Son did not exist. . . . That doctrine that Arius wrote was based on Scriptures such as John 14:28 where Jesus says that the father is "greater than I" to John 17:20-26 where Jesus asks that the Apostles become "one as we are one" so that all of them including Jesus and God become one. This is interpreted as indicating that the oneness refers to thought and will, and not a unity in a Trinity. . . . to minimize the extent of Arianism ignores the fact that extremely prominent Emperors such as Constantius II, the first Christian Emperor, and Valens were Arians, as well as prominent Gothic, Vandal and Lombard warlords both before and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and that none of these groups were out of the mainstream of the Roman Empire in the 4th century. ". . . we say and believe and have taught, and do teach, that the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any way part of the unbegotten; and that he does not derive his subsistence from any matter; but that by his own will and counsel he has subsisted before time and before ages as perfect God, only begotten and unchangeable, and that before he was begotten, or created, or purposed, or established, he was not. For he was not unbegotten. We are persecuted, because we say that the Son has a beginning, but that God is without beginning." (

My point, again, is that while Christianity was working to figure out the Godhead, the Arians came up with this particular form of Christianity; which, at the time, certainly wasn't Trinitarian but could be seen as a form of Christianity. Additionally, we have the benefit of history on our side where we can look back at the controversy and the declarations of Nicea. So, in the midst of defining Christianity, Arianism was all part of that. And in that respect, I don't see Arianism as equivalent to Islam, UU, LDS & JW that Young Fogey mentions.

What follows is just a little of why those other religions that YF mentions are not Christian.

Islam isn't Christian for obvious reasons (in the same way the Judaism isn't Christian for obvious reasons).

The UU's aren't Christian because, among other things, "As there is no official Unitarian Universalist creed, Unitarian Universalists are free to search for truth on many paths" ( Sort of a whatever-you-think-works kind of religion; which is not Christianity.

The LDS aren't Christians. Those adorable young men in matching suits will try to tell you otherwise; to paraphrase YF, just because they mention Jesus doesn't make them Christian. But the thing is, you really need to dig deep to find out what their theology really is about, because they try to hide their wackiness inside stuff that sounds normal. Here are a few examples (D&C means "Doctrine & Covenants"):

They've bastardized 1 Cor. 15:29. In this chapter, Paul is talking about resurrection. The overall context of the chapter is that resurrection is a fact: Jesus was resurrected and those who believe will be resurrected. In v. 29, Paul talks about baptism "for the dead" (NIV), or "on behalf of the dead" (NRSV). What Paul is doing here is arguing for resurrection. This is along the lines of, "If there's no resurrection, why bother being baptized?" But the LDS has ignored the context of the entire chapter and v. 29 as a support for resurrection and turned the word "for" into an imperative, thereby changing the meaning of this verse into a requirement for postmortem baptism -- D&C 128:18.

Regarding communion, D&C 20:75-79 states that communion is to be used with bread and wine and gives a prayer that the priest uses to sanctify it. Normal enough. But then over in D&C 27:1-4, they state that is doesn't matter what you use for communion, and expressly forbid the purchase and use of wine.

Regarding resurrection, I'm not sure which resurrection they mean. Apparently there may be more than one. The man who marries appropriately and commits no murder "shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths" (D&C 132:19), and "Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them (D&C 132:20).

Oy . . . That's enough LDS theology for now.

The JW's are another animal altogether. They are a non-Trinitarian, monotheistic sect:
Jehovah is the Supreme Being;
Jesus is the son of God, the first created being, who is separate from Jehovah. Christ is believed to have originally existed in a pre-human state as the Archangel Michael. He later took human form as a man like any other person, except that he was sinless at birth and remained so. And he was resurrected as
an invisible, non-material, glorious spirit creature;
The Holy Ghost is not a separate entity, but is an energy or force.

They also believe that
Christ's Second Coming has actually happened. It was not a physical return to earth. It was an invisible event in 1914 in which Satan and Christ engaged in a heavenly battle.


All of this to point out that Arianism was a competing form of Christianity at the time, eventually declared to be heretical; so only in hindsight can we say that Arianism isn't/wasn't Christian.

And now, after wading around through the muddy waters of whacked theology, I'm going to go read something a little more to my liking.


First time comments will be moderated.