Category Archives: Christology

The Arian Heresy and Nicene Orthodoxy

“Arianism–Arianism was a 4th-century Christian heresy named for Arius (c. 250-c. 336), a priest in Alexandria [Egypt]. Arius denied the full deity of the preexistent Son of God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. He held that the Son, while divine and like God (“of like substance”), was created by God as the agent through whom he created the universe. Arius said of the Son, “there was a time when he was not.” Arianism became so widespread in the Christian church and resulted in such disunity that the emperor Constantine convoked a church council at Nicaea in [A.D.] 325.” (from Class Handout)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

The Council of Nicea ruling on the Arian Heresy. The Council of Nicea ruling on the Arian Heresy.

On Sunday, November 1, 2015, Elder Wayne Wylie taught about the Arian Heresy and Nicene Orthodoxy.

Christianity faces more controversies and heresies than other religions because it is based on propositional doctrine rather than morality, as other religions are. “Contending for the faith” is a biblical duty intended to preserve the peace and purity of the church (Jude 3). In the ancient era of church history, the Faith needed to be stated more clearly in a formal way, hence the development of Nicene Orthodoxy.

The heresiarch Arius taught that Jesus was the first created being, and denied the “ontological Trinity,” which means he denied that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are of one divine essence. The councils which developed the Nicene Creed demonstrate the fact of the eternal generation of the Son, and the…

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Gnosticism and Docetism

“[T]he idea of the presence in man of a divine “spark”…, which has proceeded from the divine world and has fallen into this world of destiny, birth and death and which must be reawakened through its own divine counterpart in order to be finally restored. This idea…is ontologically based on the conception of a downward development of the divine whose periphery (often called Sophia or Ennoia) has fatally fallen victim to a crisis and must–even if only indirectly–produce this world, in which it then cannot be disinterested, in that it must once again recover the divine “spark” (often designated as pneuma, “spirit”).”

–Congress on the Origins of Gnosticism in Messina, 1966 (cited in Rudolph, Kurt; Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism. Harper & Row, 1987. Page 57)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

The Pleroma in the Valentinian System The Pleroma in the Valentinian System

On Sunday, October 25, 2015, elder Wayne Wylie taught on Gnosticism, and introduced Docetism in his series on Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Elements of the ancient heresy of Gnositicism include the ideas of dualism, the elitist attitude of the “Gnostikoi” who are the chosen few favored with secret knowledge of Gnostic doctrine, and some discussion of how this two-tiered attitude is reflected in various Christian movements to this day. Another prominent custom among modern Christians which bears some parallel to the notion that Christians have direct knowledge of God apart from Scripture is in the notion of receiving individualistic “guidance by the Holy Spirit,” often appealed to in day-to-day decision making. Important varieties of Gnosticism, such as that of the arch-heretic Marcion and the school of Valentinus were also introduced.

In Gnosticism, knowledge of Gnostic doctrine, rather…

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While I AM is Still Near (John 9:1-7)

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:1-7 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Podcast Art JohnOn Sunday, September 27, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “While I AM is Still Near” from John 9:1-7.

The Lord may be found only while he is here on earth. First, he was present in person; now he is present in his Body, the Church.

1. Who Sinned?—The fall of Adam brought the world into a state of sin and misery; therefore, we live with the daily consequences of our corporate sin in Adam in a fallen world.

2. God’s Works on Display—The real purpose of the man’s blindness, was to put the work of God on display. Doing the works of Jesus is the duty of followers, too.

3. As Long as I am in the World—The miraculous signs of Jesus reveal him to be the Creator and the Son of God. Jesus was the Light of the world during his earthly ministry. Since…

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Sermon Notes: Crossing the Jordan, Part 1

Sermon Notes Image

The following are notes from the sermon I heard yesterday, October 13, 2013 at Mid Cities Presbyterian Church. The sermon is called “Crossing the Jordan, Part 1,” and is based on Joshua 3:1-5. Rev. Joseph L. Troutman preached the sermon. Some of the material below is original to me, however.

1Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. 2 At the end of three days the officers went through the camp 3 and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. 4 Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” 5 Then Joshua said to the people,“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

The big idea of this sermon is that the gap between God and Man is caused by our sin, and is bridged only by Christ, who is God with us.

1. Follow Me (verses 1-3) they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan The distance between Shittim and the Jordan River is about 12 miles. The trip took about a day.

and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. Day 1:Their arrival, there for partial day; Day 2: “Lodged” all day; Day 3: There a partial day before crossing the river. Similar to the timing of Christ in the tomb–he wasn’t in the tomb for precisely 72 hours, but part of the first day, all of the second, and rose before sunup on day three.

Condition of the Jordan River, see verse 15: (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest) It was springtime, and the river was turbulent.

“As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”

The ark of the covenant symbolized God’s presence. It was holy because God is holy. In the Bible, all visible signs of spiritual truths are so closely associated with the spiritual truth that it is identified as if it were the spiritual truth. In the Hebrew text of Joshua 3:17, the ark is not only called the ark of the covenant, but the covenant itself. This is why some mistake baptism as the thing that actually saves, and that the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper are actually transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ. The sign is called by the name of the reality, but the sign only points to the reality; the sign is not the reality. That’s why, in chapter 27, section 2 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, it reads:

There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.

In a sense, the ark was treated by the Israelites the way the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are treated by Bible-believing Christians today.

2. A Safe Distance (verse 4)

Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it,

Two thousand cubits is about three thousand feet–over half a mile. This distance which the Israelites were to keep between themselves and the ark of the covenant symbolizes the distance between the holy God and sinful humanity. Although God was with his people, their sins still separate them from him; however, the Levites were graciously allowed to carry the ark, and thus the priesthood does its job of mediating between the holy God and sinners. They represent the people to God, and thus he is near his people while keeping a safe distance for the good of his people. This nearness of God with Man, while at the same time being separate from them is ultimately bridged in the person of Jesus, our Great High Priest.

3. Consecration (verse 5)

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

The people must set themselves apart from unclean things, as well as from common things. God is holy, so they must be holy. God is clean and he is uncommon, therefore, so should the Israelites make this spiritual fact ceremonially visible in the same way the ark makes the presence of the Lord ceremonially visible. They were to wash their clothes and abstain from sex, as in Exodus chapter 19, which gives a good description of the way the people must consecrate themselves and keep a safe distance from Mount Sinai, and the severity of the consequences if they do not.

the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it.Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”

Similarly, Christians should see themselves as called out from the unclean and the common, to be God’s chosen possession.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

“…for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” Miracles are a sign of God’s power announcing that the observer is in the presence of God. Christ himself so far surpasses Old Testament miracles that if we are unaffected by the fact of his incarnation, righteousness, substitution for us on the cross, his resurrection and ascension to be enthroned on the right hand of God the Father, this speaks ill of our spiritual condition. Jesus, the God-Man bridges the gap between the holy God and sinful humanity, and consecrates those who repent and believe that they might draw near to God to serve and worship him.

An Example of Scholarly Restraint?

Maybe you’ve seen the news about the Coptic fragment which contains writing which has Jesus referring to “My wife…” It was amusing to see how many people at work today had to ask me, “Hey, Chitty! Did Jesus have a wife?” My answer was that during his first coming, he came to purchase a people whom Scripture calls “The Bride of Christ,” and when he returns, he and his Bride will enjoy the marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9). So, no, he didn’t marry an
individual during his earthly ministry 2,000 years ago because he is saving himself for his Bride, the church.

There was one curious thing about this fragment making news today: what major Christian holiday is coming up? It’s not Christmas or Easter. Monday did mark Rosh Hashanah for the Jews, but stories like this don’t usually coincide with Jewish holidays.

The timing may be evidence that this fragment is genuine. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think the apparent assertion of the fragment reflects the truth of the matter. But a serious scholar presented it to a conference of peers, submitting it for peer review, besides the fact that it is not being publicized in conjunction with any major Christian holiday.

Here’s what Michael Heiser, who blogs at PaleoBabble, has to say about it:

Now, to be clear, this discovery isn’t PaleoBabble — at least not yet. Karen King is a good scholar. She teaches on the history of early Christianity (which would include Gnostic sects) at Harvard. I don’t believe for a minute she’s faking anything.

read more

UPDATE: Although it is true that this “Jesus’ Wife” papyrus was not heralded in the sensationalistic way which is usually case with the stories breaking the week of Christmas and Easter, questions are being raised about the propriety of the anonymous owner’s intentions in allowing Harvard scholar Karen King to introduce it to the world as she has. After all, according to the NYT article, Dr. King is interested in giving other scholars a chance to “upend (her) conclusions.” Yahoo News informs us of the discussion in progress

Union with Christ and Justification

Happy Reformation Day! October 31, 2011 marks the 494th anniversary of the legendary event considered the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation when Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailed the Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences(commonly known as the 95 Theses) to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. In the years that followed, Luther lead the movement to reform the church’s understanding of what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of justification by God’s grace alone, received through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. The Lutheran tradition would build on Luther’s work on justification, and they placed it at the center and starting point of all of the benefits of the redemption purchased

Purchase your Martin Luther T-Shirt from

by Christ for his people. But biblical reformation of soteriology didn’t end with Luther and the Lutherans. The Reformed movement also grew alongside of the Lutheran movement, and while both were co-belligerents against the Roman doctrines of justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ, they differed on the most biblical way to systematize these truths.

Friday on the Reformed Forum’s podcast, Christ the Center, Camden Bucey, Jim Cassidy and Jeff Waddington interviewed Dr. Lane Tipton, the new Charles Khrae Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Tipton was allowed two hours to spell out the differences between the Lutheran and Reformed approaches to justification and many current issues related to this essential aspect of Protestant theology, such as whether Dr. Michael Horton’s academic work on the subject is moving Reformed theology toward a more Lutheran, and therefore,according to Dr. Tipton, semi-Pelagian doctrine of justification. Listen to the podcast at this link

I was introduced to Reformed theology by Michael Horton’s materials and the Lord used his parachurch ministries Christian United for Reformation (CURE) and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE) and the White Horse Inn radio show to gradually bring me around to embrace it. I will certainly be looking forward to a future Christ the Center program in which Dr. Horton responds to Dr. Tipton’s characterization of his work on justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ. More public dialogue on this ought to take place, IMHO. At this point, Dr. Tipton’s case sounds convincing and more in line with the Reformed confessions and catechisms, as opposed to Dr. Horton’s efforts to, as I once heard him state on the air, build a kind of ecumenism between Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican traditions. I can see how some synthesis may be taking place in that effort. But what do I know?

Reformata, Semper Reformanda!


Christology 101 by James White

Tuesday’s The Dividing Line podcast, by Reformed Baptist elder and apologist Dr. James R. White, features a 2 1/2 hour long discussion of the Christological controversies of the first several hundred years of church history. Today, churches by and large are negligent in informing their members on the facts of the church history. This makes the average Christian a viable target for informed unbelievers who are out to smear the truth of God’s infallible Word as it has been defended and preserved in the earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7 KJV) of fallible servants of God and the church. Please take the time to listen to Dr. White’s summary of this important segment of Christian history warts and all, and share this with any believing friend who would benefit from the information that you think might actually listen to it. Click here to listen to “Christology 101”

Walking By Faith, Not By Sight (Matthew 20:29-34)

My daughter, Abigail, frequently announces that our pastor at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (OPC), Rev. Joe Troutman, is her favorite preacher. Mine, too, Abigail! I think I’ll begin posting links to his sermons so his exposition and application of God’s Word can build you up in your faith, or grant saving faith to those of you who may not already have it. I’ll include my notes of his remarks and sometimes will include a few of my own. Sunday, October 2, 2011, the text was Matthew 20:29-34 and the sermon was entitled, “Walking By Faith, Not By Sight.” (Listen here)

The Son of David, our Lord Jesus Christ, opens the eyes of the blind and sets his people free.

Blind Men Who Could See “And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, ’Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’” (Matthew 20:29-30 ESV)

  •  “Lord, have mercy!” This phrase was adapted and sung as Kyrie Eleison in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican liturgies, but according to church historian, Philip Schaff, “The Reformed liturgies dropped it altogether” (The New Schaff-Hertzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, “Liturgics,” page 503).
  • Jesus approaches Jerusalem in military procession in anticipation of his triumphal entry. Blind men are bold to call out for him to stop. We are given such boldness by in faith in Christ, to call on God with our requests.

Lord Have Mercy “The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’ And stopping, Jesus called them and said, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened’” (Matthew 20:31-33 ESV).

  • How persistent are you in your prayers? If God will listen to a couple of blind beggars, he will certainly listen to his children who believe, worship and glorify him. These blind men have literally “walked by faith, not by sight.”

Mercy “And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him” (Matthew 20:34 ESV).

  • “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18 ESV).
  • Healing these blind men was part of Christ’s mission; he was not sidetracked by their bold request.
  • Christ’s touching the blind men to heal them was not necessary, but rather a benedictory laying on of hand.
  • “[T]he LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous” (Psalm 146:8 ESV).
  • Their calling Christ the Son of David indicates their confession of faith in him as the Messiah who has come to save them. Healing is a sign of the deity of Christ who came so sinners who believe will have eternal life.
  • The Lord Jesus Christ, the true King of Israel, does what we cannot: he gives spiritual sight to us who are spiritually blind, that we may see him as the coming Messiah who was born to die for our sins. May your eyes be opened, and may the Lord graciously grant you such saving faith!

Heresy in Defense of the Fundamentals

Council of Chalcedon, AD 451

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV).

Recently, I heard an Independent Fundamental Baptist preacher comment that he believes in salvation “by the blood of Christ, not his death.” One who heard this comment with me registered his shock at the statement. Having discussed this issue with this particular preacher in the past, I knew what he meant by it, and was able to fill in my companion. The following bullet points are a summary of the things I shared with him.

Suffice it to say that there is a segment of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism that so wants to defend the “literal” interpretation of Scripture that it will often deny simple figures of speech in Scripture to the extent that it begins to distort the very fundamentals it intends to defend. One such fundamental of the faith that has suffered such distortion is that of the hypostatic union of Christ’s human and divine natures, of which the historic conciliar statement produced by the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) expresses the Biblical doctrine quite thoroughly and has served the church well in defining the orthodox position. Although an appeal to the so-called “Definition of Chalcedon” as an expression of Scriptural teaching on the matter falls on deaf fundamentalist ears, it does not change the fact that, historically speaking, for the Protestant as well as the Roman Catholic, to dissent from this Ecumenical Council on the hypostatic union is to be led by blind guides into the ditch of formal heresy. Sad to say, this is the fate of the kind of irresponsible Biblicism that often goes on in the Fundamentalist movement.

I’ve posted on this topic before here and here. The names I’ve used for this fundamentalist heresy are “Divine Blood” and “Celestial Flesh.” These titles describe the ways in which fundamentalists blur the distinction between Christ’s human and divine natures to a possibly heretical extent. This explains the use of these terms in the following bullet points:

  • Divine Blood proponents believe a biological myth that the male seed provides the blood to the conceived egg (see this post).
  • Divine Blood proponents believe in the seminal headship of Adam to the neglect of his federal headship. The Reformed affirm that seminal headship conveys actual moral corruption by means of “ordinary generation” (WCF 6.3), and that federal headship is the imputation of Adam’s guilt to all of his posterity (aka, “original sin”).
  • Divine Blood proponents therefore conclude that sin itself is actually transmitted in human blood from Adam through the father to his offspring, and that therefore Christ was sinless primarily because he did not have a human father who would transmit his sin-tainted blood to him, thus making him a sinner.
  • Divine Blood proponents misinterpret Heb 10:5 to teach that God the Father specially created an embryo and implanted it in Mary’s womb, so that Jesus was not the result of the supernatural fertilization of one of Mary’s eggs. This Christological error dates back to the radical reformation of the Anabaptist movement in a teaching called the “Celestial Flesh of Christ” (see this post).
  • Divine Blood proponents believe that the references in Hebrews to a “greater and more perfect tabernacle” (Heb. 9:11-10:14) mean that Christ had to actually transport this divine blood shed on the cross into the presence of God after his resurrection, but before his appearance to the apostles, in a “literal” heavenly temple to pour it on a “literal” mercy seat. Little do they realize that Scripture elsewhere reveals Christ as the true Temple (see John 2:18-22; Heb. 10:20). Thus his sacrificial death, associated with and proclaimed as the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system by metonymous reference to his blood, is his offering of this ultimate sacrifice “once for all (time)” on the cross (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10). His ascension and heavenly session actually serves as the anti-type to the references to the yearly repetition of the Aaronic priesthood which is contrasted with Christ’s sitting down at the right hand of the Father after making his ultimate once for all sacrifice (Heb. 10:11-14).
  • Thus, Divine Blood proponents confuse the human and divine natures of Christ. If his blood isn’t ordinary human blood derived from a human conception, albeit overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, then his blood is less than fully human, a compromise of the historic orthodox interpretation of Scripture, which is exemplified by the Chalcedonian Definition. The confusion of Christ’s human and divine natures repeats the kind of mistake made by the monophysites of ancient church history. The “hypostatic union” of a completely human nature and a completely divine nature without confusing them or so separating them that they are no longer united in one person, Jesus of Nazareth, is the orthodox, biblical teaching on the God-Man. One should not define Christ’s human nature in terms of his divine attributes, nor define his divine nature in terms of his human attributes. To hold to a “celestial flesh” and “divine blood” view of Christ’s nature is just such an error.

I found an excellent, but lengthy, treatment of this doctrine by an Irish Reformed minister. If you’ve ever heard of this doctrine before, and are the least bit concerned about it, please invest the time in reading “Fundamentalists and the ‘Incorruptible’ Blood of Christ” by Martyn McGeown of Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena, North Ireland. Although it’s by an Irish writer, much of his essay interacts with American fundamentalist contributions to the controversy as well.

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