Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 4

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 1 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 4  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 5

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 1
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 4
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 5
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 6
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 7
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 8  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 9
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 10

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 3 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 10
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 11
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 12
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 13
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 14
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 15
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 16
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 17
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 18
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 19
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 20

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 10
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 11
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 12
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 13
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 14
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 15
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 16

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 6

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 9

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 4


If you were to take a class on systematic theology, when you arrived at Christology, you would be given a list of verses that defend the deity and humanity of Christ. After that you will walk through a series of historic Christological and Trinitarian heresies that distorted this view. These include, but not limited to, Arianism (perhaps the most famous), adoptionism, Apollinarism, docetism, monarchianism, Eutychianism, and countless others. Some of these ancient heresies (some are still with us) overlap. One early heresy oftentimes not thoroughly explored in class is Ebionism.

Erickson follows this same pattern in his chapter on the deity of Christ. He defends the deity of the Savior and then walks through a few heresies that deny Jesus is God. The first of these is Ebionism and after reading his description, I am left wondering if (pre)modern liberalism is nothing more than a mixture of Gnosticism and Ebionism. Here is Erickson:

The roots of Ebionism can be traced to Judaizing movements within the apostolic or New testament period. Paul's letter to the Galatians was written to counter the activity of one such group. . . . [The Judaizers] taught that in addition to accepting by faith the grace of God in Jesus, it was necessary to observe all the regulations of Jewish law, such as circumcision. The Ebionites were a continuation of or offshoot from the Judaizers. Being strongly monotheistic, they focused their attention upon the problematic deity of Christ. They reject the virgin birth, maintaining that Jesus was born to Joseph and Mary in normal fashion. (711)

It should be briefly noted here that common among the majority of Christological and Trinitarian heresies is a strong belief in monotheism. Trinitarianism does not reject monotheism, but instead define the One God as Trinity. The Ebionites were no different.

Jesus was, according to the Ebionites, an ordinary human possessing unusual but not superhuman or supernatural gifts of righteousness and wisdom. He was the predestined messiah, although in a rather natural or human sense. At the baptism the Christ descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This was understood more as the presence of God's power and influence within the man Jesus than as a personal, metaphysical reality. Near the end of Jesus' life, the Christ withdrew from him. Thus Jesus was primarily a human, albeit a human in whom, at least for a time, the power of Go was present and active to an unusual degree. The Ebionites maintained their position partly through a denial or rejection of the authority of Paul's letters.

The Ebionite view of Jesus had the virtue of resolving the tension between belief int he deity of Jesus and the monotheistic view of God, but at a high price. Ebionism had to ignore or deny a large body of scriptural material: all the references to the preexistence, the virgin birth, and the qualitatively unique status and function of Jesus. In the view of the church, this was far too great a concession. (711)

I see here remnants of liberalism. Though liberalism's tendency toward "spiritual but not religious" is more Gnostic, much of the theology presented here as Ebionism is similar to liberalism. For one, the virgin birth and other Christological doctrines are rejected. This turns Jesus into a highly spiritual human who had great insight and wisdom but was a man nonetheless. Furthermore, liberalism either becomes a form of works righteousness especially regarding social causes (Pelagianism and their view of the Kingdom of God plays here) or they become pantheists/panentheist or deists.

This is why studying these ancient heresies are so important. Solomon was right when he declares that there is nothing new under the sun. Remember that the next time a liberal, in historic ignorance and snobbery, declare they have found something new. They haven't. Orthodoxy has seen this movie before.


For more:
John Knox on the Threefold Office of Christ
John Knox on the Importance of the Ascension
The God Who Became Man: Millard Erickson on the Implications of the Humanity of Christ 
Alumni Academy Christology Lectures From Dr. Bruce Ware
"The Jesus We Missed" by Patrick Henry Reardon 
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