No homoi.

Arius of Lybia

In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” John 1:1

During the early church, there was a dispute about the ontology of Jesus Christ. Is Jesus the same essence as God or is he of a similar essence? These two schools of thought divided those who wished to be faithful to what was revealed in scripture about the Redeemer. They used the Greek words ὁμοούσιος (homoousios) and ὁμοιοούσιος (homoiusios) to describe thier respective views.

Homo-ousios – that the Father and the Son are of the same essence. “Homo” meaning same. “Usia” meaning essence, or being.

Homoi-usious – that the Father and the Son are of similar essense. “Homoi” meaning similar.

Now at first glance it may seem that the difference in the two is nonessential banter. Why would there be division about such a seemingly trivial concept? Well, those that accepted the homoousian christology believed that the other camp was downplaying or outright denying the divinity of Christ. That the Theos and Logos described in John 1 are of the same essence and to describe them as anything else would be to describe someone else other than the Christ of Scripture.

Arius, a third century Lybian theologian believed in similar-substance-christology. Arius did not believe, however, that his view went against the teachings of scripture. Nor did his christology start with him. He learned from Lucian of Antioch. In a letter to another theologian known as Alexander, he called Jesus “a creature of God.” Making God the Father the creator of everything else including the Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore, according to those of the homoousion christology, God does not save but one of His creations does. Making Arianism seem to be too close to donetism, that Jesus is only a man.

Now this seems to coinside with John 3:16 that says Jesus is the “only begotten son.” The Greek here is μονογενής (monogenēs) meaning basically the single of its kind. This is important because if Jesus was of similar essence then He would not be of the same kind as His Father.

Arius, in his letter to Eusibius of Nicomedia, says of Jesus, “…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 as 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.

The Nicene Creed describes the Son as “God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten but not made…” Now I am not placing any creed above Scripture. However, those in the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) thought it vital to settle this debate. That Scripture made it plain that Jesus and God are one (John 10:30).

Tradition has it that one member that attended the council was even so impassioned that he slaps an Arian, perhpas even Arius himself. This attendee was none other than Saint Nicholas of Myra, the same St. Nicholas we see around Christmas time.

——————————–

Now, I’ve heard the argument, “what about Colossians 1:15 that states that Jesus is the first born of all creation? How can He be of the same essence as the Father?” I believe that instead of using the word “of” here, “over” would have been better as used in the New King James Version, NIV, and the CSB.

Colossians 1:15-18 states, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
” (NASB). We see here that He has made EVERYTHING. All that was created has been created by Jesus Christ. As John 1:3 says, “…apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” Making Jesus outside of creation and not a thing created.

While I can’t say that the New Living Translation is the best or even my favorite translation, I think it excellently words Colossians 1:5 this way, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.” In other words it’s Christ’s preeminence over creation that this verse is talking about.

In conclusion, I believe homoousia better describes our Lord as revealed in the Bible. Not homoi-.

Further reading: John 5:18, John 8:24, John 8:58, John 10:30-33, John 20:28, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:8

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The Validity of Christ’s Claims

blogs.thegospelcoalition.orgrayortlundfiles201406062-16a9cb25c20709cd48ea2a4fbee217b125ea9d52
Jesus Healing The Sick by Gustav Dore

In my last blog I stated that in the realm of spiritual truths, having the right answer matters, especially in regard to an eternity with or apart from God. Jesus made claims that must be examined. He claimed to be the only way to the Father. If what He said is true then all other beliefs are false.

When anyone makes a claim of who they are then they must be able to back up those claims in order to persuade others. A person who claims to be a doctor will have proof of receiving his doctorate. A company asking for proof of who you are may ask for identification or proofs of residence. A man claiming to be the one way to God must prove to be from God and of God. Here I offer such proofs of Jesus being who He claimed to be.

1. Jesus healed and raised the dead on His own authority. We are shown often in the Scriptures that God’s prophets and apostles have healed people. The difference between them and Christ is that they did not do so of their own power or authority. They had to pray before doing so (ex. 2 Kings 4:33, 1 Kings 17:20). Or they did so “in Jesus name” (Acts 3:6). Jesus never had to appeal to a secondary means of authority.

2. The Seven Witnesses: In the Gospel of John there are seven witnesses listed that validate Jesus’ claims. Deuteronomy 19:15 states that a single witness does not suffice. Knowing this, the Pharisees told Jesus in John 8:13, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”  However, John the Apostle shows us there are more than enough witnesses to corroborate that Jesus is who He says He is.

  • John the Baptist: John 1:34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.
  • Jesus Himself: John 8:14 Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
  • God the Father: John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen (Matthew 3:17, Luke 9:35)
  • The Holy Spirit: John 15:26 But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
  • The prophets of the Old Testament: John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me
  • Jesus’s miracles (works): John 10:25 I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me  (Matthew 14:20, Matthew 17:27, Mark 4:39-41, John 2:7-9)
  • The witness of believers: John 15:27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

3. The Resurrection. This is perhaps the most important of all that substantiate Jesus’ claims. While the Bible states that others have been raised from the dead, only Christ was raised of His own power. He said, ” Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” (John 2:19). He also said, regarding His life, that He has the “authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18).

4. Doubting Thomas, Jesus-hating-Saul, and Unbelieving James end up worshiping Jesus as God.

  • After word was getting around that Jesus had risen from the dead, His disciple, Thomas, refused to believe it until he saw with his own eyes and felt the nail scars with his own hands (John 20:25). After Jesus appeared to Thomas, He told him that he could touch His wounds. We aren’t told whether Thomas did actually touch, but we do know that just the sight of Jesus made him believe. And in believing he called Jesus “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
  • Paul, who was not only skeptical of Jesus but persecuted His followers, was also visited by the risen Savior. This event was so miraculous that it changed Saul from a hater of Christians to Paul, one of Christianity’s most prominent missionaries. Paul, who wrote 13 of the 27 New Testament books. In these books he calls Jesus God and describes divine attributes of Jesus: Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians. 8:6; 10:4; 15:47; 2 Cor. 8:9; Galatians 4:4, Philippians 2:5-6, Colossians 1:16-19.
  • James, the Brother of Jesus, did not believe in Him (John 7:5). 1 Corinthians 15:7 states that Jesus appeared to James and the other apostles after His resurrection. Afterwards, James became a follower (and worshipper) of his brother and went on to write the New Testament epistle that bears his name. Historian, Flavius Josephus even records that James was martyred because of the truth of his brother that he spread to others, ” the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ…was delivered to be stoned” (Antiquities, 20.9.1)

So, as we see Jesus didn’t just make outrageous claims; He backed them up. We see that He had witnesses and His own works to validate what He said about Himself. As C.S. Lewis famously states, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

Can a sincere belief be sincerely wrong?

multiple-choice-test

With so many people in the world and so many different worldviews and conflicting religions, it’s hard for many people to grasp the idea that only a small portion of the population could be “right” about what many would say really matters, the purpose of life and what happens when we die. Nineteeth century poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote a poem titled Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined, 
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind), 
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind. 

The First approach’d the Elephant, 
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, 
At once began to bawl: 
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!” 

The Second, feeling of the tusk, 
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp? 
To me ’tis mighty clear, 
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!” 

The Third approach’d the animal, 
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands, 
Thus boldly up and spake: 
“I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!” 

The Fourth reached out an eager hand, 
And felt about the knee: 
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,- 
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant 
Is very like a tree!” 

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, 
Said- “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most; 
Deny the fact who can, 
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!” 

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope, 
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope, 
“I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!” 
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long, 
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong, 
Though each was partly in the right, 
And all were in the wrong! 

MORAL, 
So, oft in theologic wars 
The disputants, I ween, 
Rail on in utter ignorance 
Of what each other mean; 
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

All the men in this poem are blind men making the best guess they can with the information they are given. Are we like these men? Are the different religions of the world basically men grabbing at different parts of the “Elephant” which they cannot see? All the men in the poem were essentially wrong. But is all of mankind wrong? For those who are sincere seekers of truth yet end up with the wrong answer based solely on the limited information they are given, does eternal damnation await them?

This is an important question for the Christian and the non-Christian. For the Christian because it will effect his evangelism. If he believes he has the only right answer and those who don’t will perish for eternity, then he will be driven to share his faith with others. If he believes we are all just doing the best we can and that his faith may be as valid as other faiths, then he is likely to have a laissez-faire approach when it comes to matters of faith. He probably will not put much stock in Jesus’ command to go into all the world and make disciples of all men. Both Christian and non-Christian will have an attitude that says “You believe whatever you want. As long as you are truly seeking the truth and have a sincere heart, God will not punish.”

Does God hold us accountable if we seek the truth but come to a wrong conclusion? Is there a wrong conclusion? The answer matters. In school we learn at a very young age that there are right and wrong answers. On an assignment, getting one wrong answer will get points taken off. Getting too many wrong answers will get a failing grade. On some tests, some answers could be worth more points than others (like essay questions verses multiple choice questions). The important thing we learn, however, is that THERE IS A RIGHT ANSWER AND THERE IS A WRONG ANSWER. In the realm of belief systems some questions have more value than others. For example, in Christianity some believe that speaking in tongues is one proof of salvation today, while others believe that speaking in tongues is one gift of many that a believer may or may not have, and yet others believe that speaking in tongues was only for the New Testament church. This is what we consider nonessentials. Nonessentials are things we may disagree on but will not get anyone to heaven or condemn anyone to hell. Things of “minor points”.

In the Bible, Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to me unless the Father draws him.” This is a pretty exclusive claim. For someone to believe in the claims of Christ they must believe that Jesus is the one door. The one right answer. Jesus didn’t say He was A way, but THE way. And that no one comes to the Father except through him. He also says that “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” in John 6:44. He repeated this sentiment in John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Jesus also says “I am the door (gate). If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” John 10:9

It is to be noted that although many disciples rejected Jesus’ claims immediately after he made them (John 6:66) His disciples took them to be the words of life (John 6:68-69). In the book of Acts 4, Peter said with boldness “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Paul tells Timothy that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus the Messiah.” 1 Timothy 2:5

So with all the claims of Christ to have the sole key to salvation, any other religion that claims otherwise is saying Jesus’ claims are false. That being said, anyone who claims all faiths are basically the same and equally valid fail to see that Jesus is not and cannot be just one valid choice among many. In the multiple choice world of religions, there is only one right answer and it is Jesus the Christ. Jesus didnt just make these claims, He backed them up. In my next blog I will dive into the reasons His claims are valid.

More exclusive claims of Christ: 1 John 2:23, 1 John 5:11-12, Luke 10:16, Luke 12:8-9 , John 3:18, John 3:36, John 8:24, and John 10:7-8b.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org