Friday, November 12, 2021

Christian Arrogance


I have stumbled on a statement that fascinates me.  I only raise it here because I know some people who read this blog will help point me to some further answers.  But before coming to the statement, I would like to clarify some things and set some general ground rules.

The topic is very “Christian.”  Not really “how Christianity is necessary for liberty,” at least not directly.  Perhaps indirectly, as this issue of Christian arrogance points to one of the causes of a ruptured Church that cannot, therefor, so easily stand against corrupt power.

What do I mean by Christian arrogance?  Well, before coming to this, I will reiterate something I have often said: no-interdenominational or inter-traditional food fights here.  No matter which tradition any of us calls home, we all know that there are either corrupt leaders or corrupt doctrines or both in our own home.  No need to get nasty about it regarding someone else.  And no point in trying to resolve it here either.

Broadly speaking, what I mean by Christian arrogance…this idea that a new generation can somehow find truths unknown to those who have been developing the Christian theology for 2000 years.  I heard Paul VanderKlay say something very helpful recently – and keep in mind, he is a pastor in a Dutch Christian Reformed Church, about as Protestant as it gets.

He said something like: Sola Scruptura should be used to test tradition, not to eliminate tradition.  This is a valuable way in which to consider the specific issue at hand: the issue of the nature of Jesus Christ.  Which makes me wonder – and something I read, I think in Strickland’s books: if we really want to achieve ecumenical dialogue and, potentially, harmony, go back to the earliest councils and work forward.  And, I would add, apply the VanderKlay filter.

And this comes to the statement that fascinates me, one that points to this intersection of Scripture and tradition.  One that demonstrates that the formula of “let’s see what the Bible says” (sola Scriptura) cannot answer every question – even tremendously important ones…like, you know, the nature and person of Christ.

So…this question was addressed at the Council of Nicaea:

The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea (now İznik, Turkey) by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325.

This ecumenical council was the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all Christendom.

I find that last statement tremendously important when it comes to dealing with matters of theological importance that are not so clearly understood from Scripture.  A body of bishops; not individuals deciding on their own, as this is arrogance.  About 1800 bishops were invited; something around 300 bishops attended (different numbers from different sources). 

Here is the curious statement, taken from Documents from the First Council of Nicea - A.D. 325:


The Fathers of the Council at Nice were at one time ready to accede to the request of some of the bishops and use only scriptural expressions in their definitions. But, after several attempts, they found that all these were capable of being explained away.

What is so important about Homousios that it was desired to use only Scriptural expressions in formulating the definitions?

HOMOOUSIOS: A term first defined by the first general council of the Church to identify Christ's relationship to the Father. It was chosen by the council to clarify the Church's infallible teaching that the second Person of the Trinity, who became man, is of one and the same substance, or essence, or nature as God the Father. The Arians, who were condemned at Nicaea, held that Christ was "divine" only in the sense that he was from God, and therefore like God, but not that he was literally "God from God, one in being with the Father." (Etym. Greek homoousios, of one essence, consubstantial.)

It turns out that Homousios is rather important – like…everything.  Was the second person of the Trinity God, or was there no Trinity – like Jesus was just a really good guy, overly blessed by God?  Closer to a Mother Theresa type, perhaps?  This matters a lot, and these learned bishops couldn’t find a clear defense solely based on Scripture.

How did the Council intend this word, Homousios, to be understood?  St. Athanasius explained:

"That the Son is not only like to the Father, but that, as his image, he is the same as the Father; that he is of the Father; and that the resemblance of the Son to the Father, and his immutability, are different from ours: for in us they are something acquired, and arise from our fulfilling the divine commands.  Moreover, they wished to indicate by this that his generation is different from that of human nature; that the Son is not only like to the Father, but inseparable from the substance of the Father, that he and the Father are one and the same, as the Son himself said: 'The Logos is always in the Father, and, the Father always in the Logos,' as the sun and its splendour are inseparable."

Now, go back to the earlier statement from the Council: using only Scripture, the Council could not defend the position, because “…all these [attempts] were capable of being explained away.”

This does not necessarily mean that a different position could be defended solely by Scripture.  I know Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses conclude such a thing, but is their belief any more or less grounded in Scripture that can be “explained away”?  Of course, I would say less because of that “Christian arrogance” thing.

There is a tradition that extends back to the apostles; St. Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of the Apostle John, as was St. Polycarp of Smyrna.  Men such as these understood the times, the language, the culture far better than those who came 500, 1000, or 2000 years later.  There is a tradition that built on these men.  To ignore this tradition (not to say they were infallible, but to not contend with it), is arrogance.

To be clear: by pointing out that the statements from Nicaea could not be defended solely by Scripture does not mean that I am in any way questioning the position of the vast majority of the Church – I do not.  I also don’t think salvation can work unless it is so, that it was God, in some fashion, who was sacrificed and then resurrected.

Why do I use the phrase “in some fashion”?  Mostly, it is because I don’t want to get into a debate about how, “precisely,” the point is to be understood.  Which comes to my next…curiosity:

The Council of Chalcedon was the fourth ecumenical council of the Christian church, convoked by Emperor Marcian. The council operated in Chalcedon, Bithynia (modern day Kadıköy, Turkey) from 8 October to 1 November 451 and was attended by 520 bishops or their representatives. The gathering itself continues to represent the largest and best-documented of early councils.

The churches now known as Oriental Orthodox didn’t like the wording of the statement regarding Christ’s nature.  I want to look at the two:

Chalcedonian Definition

Following, then, the holy Fathers, we all unanimously teach that our Lord Jesus Christ is to us One and the same Son, the Self-same Perfect in Godhead, the Self-same Perfect in Manhood; truly God and truly Man; the Self-same of a rational soul and body; co-essential with the Father according to the Godhead, the Self-same co-essential with us according to the Manhood; like us in all things, sin apart; before the ages begotten of the Father as to the Godhead, but in the last days, the Self-same, for us and for our salvation (born) of Mary the Virgin Theotokos as to the Manhood; One and the Same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten; acknowledged in Two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis; not as though He was parted or divided into Two Persons, but One and the Self-same Son and Only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; even as from the beginning the prophets have taught concerning Him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself hath taught us, and as the Symbol of the Fathers hath handed down to us.

From the Coptic Orthodox Church, an Oriental Orthodox Church:

… we are Miaphysite and not Monophysite.

Both “Mia” and “Mono” mean “one.”  But they don’t mean “one” in the same way, apparently.

Miaphysitism (one nature) means the Lord Jesus Christ is perfect human and perfect divine and these two natures are united together without mingling, nor confusion, nor alteration in one nature; the nature of God incarnate.

Both statements say Christ is of two natures; both statements say perfect divine and perfect human; both say without confusion; both say unchanging. 

Chalcedonian churches say two natures, unconfusedly.  The Oriental Orthodox Church says two natures without mingling.  “Unconfusedly” or “without mingling” – can you tell the difference?  But this issue caused the first schism.  I remained completely baffled.

After many hours of searching, the most easily understandable short and simple answer I have found to explain this issue comes from a Catholic layman, Dr. Taylor Marshall: 

The big debate between Non-Chalcedonian Miaphysites on one hand, and Chalcedonian Catholics and Eastern Orthodox on the other, centers on the use of terms in Greek:

The Non-Chalcedonians insist on Saint Cyril’s phrase “mia physis” (one nature) and the formulation that the incarnate Christ is “ek duo physeon” (out of two natures).

The Chalcedonians (Rome and Constantinople) allow for Saint Cyril’s phrase “mia physis” (we must accept it, because it comes from a sainted champion of orthodoxy!) but prefer the formulation that the incarnate Christ is “en duo physesin” (in two natures).

It is important to note that Non-Chalcedonians reject the heretic Eutyches and also rightly believe that Christ is consubstantial with the Father and consubstantial with humanity. It seems that the heretic Eutyches condemned by the Council of Chalcedon did not profess that Christ was consubstantial with the rest of humanity. This is bad, bad theology because if Christ does not share our nature, He cannot save us or lift us up.

Can you understand my confusion?  Of course, in the comments to Dr. Marshall’s piece, there were widely differing views, but one portion of one comment is worth noting (and really shouldn’t be a surprise):

First of all, we must know that the use of certain words such as, nature, hypostasis, prosopon, ousia had different meanings for the parties involved in these controversies, this made things much more difficult than they had to be.

Translation and time – these can wreak havoc on understanding and meaning.

Can someone point me to another easy-to comprehend article or essay on the matter – on the precise nature of the difference in the two beliefs?  Something that 98% of believers can comprehend, and not something that requires the knowledge of the most learned bishops?  Look, I know I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but, really, this shouldn’t be so complicated and confusing.


It was fascinating for me to read the statement that the nature of Christ as understood in the Orthodox (universal) Church of the fourth century could not be defended or explained solely by using Scripture.

I once had a Protestant pastor say something to me like, “if it isn’t clear in the Bible, maybe that’s because God didn’t want to make it clear.”  Well, maybe so.  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important.  It is important that Jesus Christ is God and the Son of God, even if it cannot be defended solely by Scripture.  But precisely how to explain the two natures in one – is this so important?

Which comes back to my Christian arrogance point, and the statement referenced earlier by VanderKlay: Sola Scriptura can (should) be used to test tradition.  To create, individually, this understanding is, and has proven to be, a costly road for the Church to walk. 

And, as should be obvious, it hasn’t only been Protestants that have walked it.


  1. This is the first article of 6. Looks like it might address some of your questions.

  2. "It was fascinating for me to read the statement that the nature of Christ as understood in the Orthodox (universal) Church of the fourth century could not be defended or explained solely by using Scripture."

    I will admit up front that I am an Arrogant Christian as so defined. I reject that a true spiritual idea central to Jesus can't be explained or defended using Scripture alone but needs men's words. That sounds more arrogant to me actually.

    At the same time I agree with Vander Klay's comment in some ways. Sola Scriptura shouldn't be used a tool for complete deconstruction of what came before this generation in the universal church. Criticisms of specific traditions should rely on Scripture and be measured in nature.

    I would counter this article with 2 Scriptural examples. First, is 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

    "16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

    The Bible is enough according to God's Word. Maybe that is circular logic but as long as we acknowledge the source of Scripture it is clear that it isn't.

    Second, I have defended the nature of Jesus as completely God years ago with a relative of mine who is into the New Age movement. He acknowledged Jesus' humanity and his divinity but not that He was fully God and fully Man. He bet my brother $100 to prove that Jesus claimed to be fully God. I gave my brother 1 verse in the book of John. He won the money. My relative still didn't believe that Jesus was fully God but he admitted the Bible was clear that He claimed he was. There are many other statements from John alone that show that to be true.

    I agree with the statements about Jesus from the council of Nicea and Chalcedon because and as much as they align with Scripture. But they don't prove or defend the fact that Jesus was fully God and fully Man any better than Scripture itself. Man's words simply don't have that authority.

    If that makes me arrogant. So be it. I am getting used to being labeled.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. The issue is actually wider than mia vs mono: The Oriental Orthodox reject not just the 4th but the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Ecumenical Councils. These pages address the implications of that:

  5. Arrogance much? The opening lines of the Athanasian Creed:

    "Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.

    Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.

    Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being."

    Is it possible to be more arrogant than stating a person will suffer eternally - that means without end, ever, right? - for not believing in a doctrine that even those that espouse it, can't explain clearly?
    There are certain 'lines in the sand', drawn by various groups each of which call themselves 'Orthodox' in some way - and those on their side of the line are 'in' and the rest are 'out' - and if the line-drawers are arrogant and crazy enough, they condemn those on the other side of the line to eternal conscious torment. Forever and ever, conscious torment. Fools.
    The lines that are drawn: trinity, dual nature, preexistence, hell, baptism, sola scriptura, creeds, old-Earth vs Young Earth - the lists go on and on. Each of which does nothing more than divide up the body of Christ, and display to the world that we cannot love one another, unless the other is exactly like us.
    Go to and get some learning on ya.

    1. Okay I am not as arrogant as I thought. :).

      Belief in a specific theology has certain implications. There is no way around that. It isn't arrogance. It is logical progression. Maybe the logical progression is correct or maybe it is incorrect, but believing the logical implications isn't arrogance.

      We just have to realize that logical progression doesn't prove correctness. We also have to align with an ethic that doesn't punish non-violent crime with violence, the NAP and all that. Moral failure or theological error needs correction, rebuke, and expectation to change. It doesn't require violence. Arrogance is applying violence to non-violent crime based on our theological or political view point.

    2. Understood! I was using the concept 'arrogance' with a somewhat different emphasis.
      Humility is a great corrective to arrogant dogmatism. Believing a particular Creed - such as the Athanasian - is after all a choice; but the understanding that it is a choice - and that others have justifiably made a different choice - can harden into a less charitable - less humble - arrogance.
      When we start burning 'heretics' - iow those outside what we have chosen to call 'orthodoxy' - we show that our contingent choices are more important than the freedom of conscience of other human beings.
      Which is what you were saying, I think. I would go a little further by saying that excluding from fellowship - let alone excluding from the Kingdom of God - can be a type of violence as well.
      Love alone is credible.

    3. I agree we need to practice humility as we decide which theological path each of us goes down. But I think it is inevitable when there are positions that are diametrically opposed or differ substantially there won't be much fellowship. I don't condone burning heretics, but I think it is fine to call heresy, heresy. No human can exclude another person from the Kingdom of God. Only God can do that. However, we each have to make our own decisions on the spiritual fruit of people. Good trees bear good fruit. Bad trees bear bad fruit. I don't believe Universalism is biblical so there are people aren't in the Kingdom.

  6. The issue is well stated... I doubt many would or could care to delve into an intricate discussion of 'ek' and 'en'.

    Often a division reflects far more on the contenders than the issue. When you speak of Christian Arrogance, it reminds me of Human Arrogance, putting us all in the same boat. Indulge me in a few examples...

    How is it that men who admit to a Lord who is greater than them consider themselves competent to defend (and thereby define) what he is like? Truth needs no defense. "We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth."

    If God was ever finished with Man, he seems to have neglected to tell us. An unfinished painting does get a review by the critics. An unfinished creature does not have a nature to speak of, nor does scripture do so. We are made "partakers of Divine Nature" but human 'nature' is not discussed in scripture; not in Romans 6-8, not anywhere. Quite possibly because we might not have one yet.

    How often did Jesus 'define' things when asked to? How is it that we are given no 'creeds' in the New Testament, only by subsequent church statesmen? And more importantly, do statements of faith increase our confidence in the Spirit, or in ourselves?

    How is it that our divisions are rarely because we do not actually agree (all sides generally agree that they want Jesus' humanity and divinity to make sense somehow), but because we do not understand each other, and this because we do not wish to communicate with each other?

    How is it that we compare Jesus' humanity to ours instead of, as scripture does, ours to his?

    When did we creatures become experts on God?

    Respectfully submitted.

    1. ducq, thank you for this. On creeds, I don't know how it is to be avoided. There are many important concepts in Scripture that individuals can easily find seemingly contradictory verses and passages.

      Sometimes I feel as if this was done purposefully, as if God / Jesus / the Apostles were telling us that we had to work together in love to better understand. Hence, councils.

      Is it all necessary for salvation, that we understand perfectly? It isn't possible, for reasons you point out.

      I am reminded of the first sermon by Peter. It wasn't very complicated, yet three thousand were added to their number that day.

  7. EXCURSUS is written by the editor, not by the council participants, and the web version has nno footnotes to support the miasma of sola scriptura in the church tradition. The sola scriptura itself is denied by sola scriptura. Christianity is not bibliolatry—the Church is the locus of salvation (St Cyprian) as it is established and guided by the Holy Spirit, not scriptures (which the Church wrote and collected and "canon-ized") and much less those alone; filioque gravely diminished this conciliar truth in the west; the Holy Spirit does not need a filter, well-meaning and ecumenistic though it may be. For your quest, see perhaps St Maximus the Confessor, Four Centuries (hundreds) on Charity (Love).

  8. Hi Bionicmosquito, thanks very much for this article on the nature of Christ. I found it very informative. I also was arrogant enough to try to explain the nature of Christ on the website that I edit. Here is a link to that attempt for what it is worth:
    I would be very interested in your critique of my attempt so that I might make any changes or improvements as I learn more.

  9. The ideas of "essential" and "essence" can both be differently based. I have read that, for Aristotle, essence was metaphysical essence, and for at least 1 subsequent philosopher (Rand, in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology), essence is epistemological, not metaphysical. It occurs to me that while essence may be metaphysical, our discovery of essence depends on the context of the knowledge we have so far,
    making it epistemological for us. I think that was Rand's view of essence. Have to walking with wife now so cutting it short

  10. I've yet to have gotten a rebuttal to this clarifying essay from Mr. Tuggy. I'd be interested in your responses.

  11. To put it in scriptural terms the Non-Chalcedonians were on a slippery slope to saying Christ didn't come in the flesh. Now read 1 John 4....hope that helps.

  12. I am a convert to Orthodoxy from Protestantism. One of the last straws that pushed me over was realizing there is no where in scripture, that defines what is scripture, therefore scripture was assembled by men, and Sola Scriptura is a self-defeating concept.

    I appreciate what you're getting at in this article because it has shades of the seeds of doubt that lead me away from Protestantism. If Steve Christguy and Jim Jesusman disagree on something, they just make their own churches. How can we determine which of them was right, or if either was right? Reason took me backwards in time, out into the Holy Tradition to see what had been said in the past. This is what everyone should do to understand, just about everything. Looking into the origins of ideas, and trying to gain knowledge about them in their proper historical context is how we best get to the truth of the matter. Here's an allegory and a definite trigger warning: Protestantism is to Christianity as the "Living Breathing" interpretation is to the Constitution. Orthodoxy is the compact theory of the Constitution.

    Orthodoxy also has a concept of the Nous. It is roughly defined as the "knowledge of the heart". It is wholly different from reason, which is finite and man-derived. It is what is learned from revealed, divine truth in the hearts of those who are the most pious; those who have cleared out as much sin from their hearts as possible so that God may dwell there instead. One might respond to this idea and say "That isn't reasonable or provable", and that's the point. It requires faith. It recognizes the limits of man's reason and its ability to reveal truth. Catholicism dug deeper into reason with Aquinas, and Protestantism came from that.

    This will also seem counterintuitive to some, but the benefit of the councils is you have more men together, and not less, making decisions. A libertarian understands better than most the more you concentrate power in individuals, the worse things get. Jesus being perfect, did not leave the Holy Spirit to descend on just Peter, it descended on 12 men. Jesus left the continuation of his work to a council, not one man. Orthodoxy had ever since never had a truly centralized power. Constantinople was big, but the Patriarch was always one of a few, and could not overrule the others. Orthodoxy has never had a "the Pope". This is where the schism of Orthodoxy and Catholicism was born. "The Patriarchs of the four patriarchates would know no superiors, and the patriarch of Rome would know no equals".

    The Holy Tradition allows us to chase reason as far as we can take it, to the words and context of those who came before us, upon which the church has been built brick by brick. We trust in the power of revealed divine truth to the most pious among us to guide the doctrine of the church. Where men are involved, there is only ever one who stands above the rest: Jesus.

    1. I find sympathy, agreement, and understanding with all of this. Yet I also find blessing in the reality that different people are reached differently.

      I have described elsewhere my different experiences in Orthodox and Protestant churches. Each has blessed me; I can understand why different people find value and truth in each.

      I have found saints and scoundrels in each - including in the clergy.

  13. Regarding "Christian Arrogance..."

    Perhaps an attempt to establish concepts on which all Christians can agree would be a good start. Here's my feeble attempt...

    - God is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, eternal Being.
    - We humans are not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, eternal critters.
    - We humans are finite, our days are numbered in our current state.

    Given this common understanding, in humility, here's my attempt to process these assertions with simple, straightforward logic. What I propose is a simple exercise in boolean logic, a single arithmetic expression.

    "The finite cannot grasp the infinite."

    The mathematical expression: human_being ≠ infinite_being; or HB < ∞

    Is there any rational way to refute this? There's no room to fit infinity into a finite box.

    Given this, wouldn't it be arrogant for a feeble human being to think they can figure out God? Or Understand everything there is to know about an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, infinite eternal Being?

    This notion of mystery is affirmed by Scripture:
    - Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? (Job 11:7)
    - The secret things belong to the Lord our God. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
    - It does not appear what we shall be like, but we know we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2)
    - Behold, I show you a mystery (1 Corinthians 15:51)
    - He made known to us the mystery of His will (Ephesians 1:9)
    - To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

    Sadly, many theologian types have said that they knew a lot about God, but they didn't know God.

    That being said, we can know the unfathomable God and have a relationship with Him. For me, this is what's most important in my life. Knowing God personally and more intimately is a lifetime pursuit. We can know God and hold the mystery as a matter of faith.

    Here is are two Scriptures that have helped me keep perspective:
    - Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. (Eccl 12:12)
    - Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? (Eccl 7:16)

    Hope this doesn't sound preachy. Intellect matters! But for me, understanding Scripture is more a matter of the heart than the intellect. This gets into Sola Scriptura, maybe I'll collect some thoughts on that to hopefully add to the very nice discussion going on here.

    Thanks to all.

  14. 1> What I propose is a simple exercise in boolean logic, a single arithmetic expression.

    It is possible to put the infinite on a page--mathematical analysis (Leibniz, Newton). That, however, is "purely" a formal exercise trying to reflect the reality of infinities (yes, Virginia, there is more than one kind of infinity, per Cantor). These are all formal/ formalizing, a way to check our thinking--can we do better? Of course:

    2> Is there any rational way to refute this? There's no room to fit infinity into a finite box.

    Yes and no as it is a mystery--which goes directly to your theme of essences (ousia) in incarnation: The Theotokos is honored with the attribute (among others) Platytera, wider/more spacious than the heavens, having contained the infinite God. Christ himself, the infinite God "who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate (finite) by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary..." So it is possible (your question has a solution, therefore) rationally and empirically, if you will. What is that solution? That is a different question for another time, but the solution to that solution is perhaps, in first approximation, mystery, as you suggest. (It is unclear what "as a matter of faith" means? Isn't mystery just as much an epistemological approach as reason?) It was given to human beings to talk about God, of course, feeble they may be: "feed my sheep", among other references.

  15. While I commend the ethos of appealing to wisdom beyond self, Sola Scriptura is not enough.

    This statement may be heretical to many. Well, humans can make an idol out of anything, even the Bible, "bibliolatry." Picture a Bible thumping preacher holding up a Bible for all to see, then laying it down on pulpit, pounding on it saying, "The Bible is the word of GawwwdD. It is the inerrant, infallible word of GawwwdD and the sole source of our Faith." Hmmm... Sounds kinda arrogant to me.

    How about considering what the Bible actually says about THE Word of God?

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind." (John 1:1-4. Note: capitalization from the NIV.)

    What does the Bible actually say about the Bible? I have searched for a verse where it explicitly and literally says the Bible is "THE Word of God." I have not found one, maybe someone can help me with that. Sure, there are many verses where one could make this implication, but few are so explicit as John 1 above. Of course folks are quick to point to Hebrews 4:12-14, so let's have a serious look.

    "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession." (Hebrews 4:12-14 ESV)

    I find it interesting when folks say, "I read the Bible literally," then go on to read it metaphorically when it suits their theology. Notice that this passage says nothing is hidden from God's sight, not the Bible's "sight," The Bible literally cannot see. Therefore this passage is not talking about the Bible because...
    - THE Word of God is alive and active, the Bible is literally NOT alive nor active.
    - THE Word of God penetrates to the dividing of soul and spirit, the Bible literally does not.
    - THE Word of God judges thoughts and attitudes, the Bible literally does not.
    - Everything is uncovered before the eyes of God, the Bible does not have eyes.
    - We must give account to Christ, THE Word of God, not the Bible.
    - We hold fast to our confession of Jesus, not the Bible.

    I concede that some metaphorical interpretation "works" here, but not for all points, specifically the last three. Context is king. Whenever the original audience heard the phrase, "The Word of God," they did not immediately think of the Bible, they knew this to be a reference to Jesus Christ. With that the Hebrews 4:12-14 passage is talking about Jesus Christ, not the Bible.

    Consider this passage which literally spells out very clearly what "THE Word of God" is:
    "He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God... From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations..." (Revelation 19:13, 14 ESV - Note the sword connection to Hebrews.)

    Also note Revelation 6:9, "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of THE Word of God and their testimony." The martyrs were not slain for the Bible, they were slain for Jesus Christ. Similar understandings for THE Word of God can be found in 1 John 2:14 and Romans 10:17.

  16. Thanks Alin Voicu, I appreciate your fine comments.

    Regarding your point 1, I "feared" someone may bring up the infinitesimally small, but figured that when considering the Almighty the progression to infinity was the other direction, and as you say, we can do better.

    Regarding your point 2, I'm going with the concept that Jesus is "fully human and fully God." (I also think Jesus is fully in the flesh as He sits at the right hand of the Father to this day, but that's another topic.) For this I look to the Scriptures.

    "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

    Is there a difference between the exact "representation" of his being and just "being?" Well the context of creating the universe and sustaining all things points to Jesus being fully God. Jesus is the the exact representation and essence (hypostasis) of God’s being.

    And this verse makes it crystal clear, IMHO:

    "God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him… For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form," (Colossians 1:19; 2:9).

  17. Somewhere along the way I collected a few fun quotes from theologians and writers somewhat related to this topic:

    "The Word of God is infallible, inerrant and totally inspired. And when He was about 18, He grew a beard."
    Brad Jersak

    "It is Christ Himself, not the Bible Who is the True Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit, and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him. We must not use the Bible as a sort of encyclopedia out of which texts can be taken for use as weapons."
    C. S. Lewis

    "Jesus doesn't call us to a life of becoming progressively more and more like the Bible. Jesus calls us to a life of becoming more and more like him. The Bible is simply the vehicle to make the introduction. The goal has never been for us to live biblically. The goal has always been for us to live like Christ--and there is a massive difference between these two."
    Benjamin E. Corey

    After the resurrection Jesus told the disciples that All authority in heaven and earth have been given to Him. Do we believe that? World renowned theologian with typical British wit reminds us that Jesus did not say, "All the authority in heaven and earth is given unto a book you chaps are going to write."
    N. T. Wright

    1. How would you know to be like Jesus? Did you come to Jesus by hearing of a gurgling brook, the incoherent raving of a mad man, by mathematical formulations or the philosophers dancing shadows?
      Where else can we find the Word Of God, if not in the Bible, to read, accept, proclaim to others hearing that Jesus became man, suffered and died and arose from the dead on the third day, that all who believe in Jesus' death on the cross was the sacrifice for our sin will be saved and be at peace with God.
      True, the map is not the terrain but it is how you navigate to reach your destination. It is a drawing and more than a drawing.

  18. I want to ask a serious question. I spent very many years as a 'doctrine' nerd. Studying to defend the religion I'd been taught; in my case it was Protestantism, then for a short while Calvinism. So I'm very familiar with the apologetics of trinity, dual-nature, pre-existence, predestination, various atonement theories, election, etc etc. I know the scripture references that are used to justify those positions. As a philosophy undergrad, 40 years ago and I've kept up - I studied presuppositionalism, divine simplicity and many other things. I'm sure a number of folks reading this have done much the same.
    I realized a few years ago that - I did not know God. I've since taken some hard steps to rectify that,realizing that the amount of understanding I had on those topics was no help in a living relationship.
    So my question is - are any of those things really important? For instance, I'm convinced that the 6 or 7 theories of the 'trinity' are seriously not justifiable; the day I decided that, and stopped clinging to the theory, NOTHING changed. I still believed in God's revelation through His son - the Son of God, not God the Son. I still worshiped God through His son, as the bible teaches.
    My point, to get to it: If you stopped believing in esoteric doctrines, influenced by philosophy and tradition only - what difference would it make, other than being kicked out of your congregation? Which happened to me. What difference in your relation with God would it really make if you no longer believed what was told you - such as two-natures in Christ, or double=predestination or any of the others? I would say: no change. Ask yourself what difference any of those things makes to the thing that counts - knowing God, loving him and your neighbor? That is our calling, not logic-chopping about the esoteric.
    If you want to throw scriptures my way, be sure that I have studied them and found justifiable reasons to question them. YMMV, but I am no longer interested in fighting over them. We've got much more to do in the world than in-fighting.
    I do suggest this as a starting point:

    1. Dave, the regular readers and commenters here know, and respect, my desire to not dive too deep into doctrinal rabbit trails - and, as I noted in this piece, I do not want the comment thread to turn into just such a chase - all the while knowing that the post I have written risks just that.

      With that said, if Jesus isn't also God, the sacrifice doesn't work. He would just be another Iron Man, snapping his fingers at Thanos.

      It had to be a sacrifice that cannot be topped, if the point was to end the need for sacrifice. Only one would suffice.

      Beyond this, I am sure - you have verses, I have verses, everyone has verses. For this, I go back to the earliest Church fathers. They knew better than either of us.

    2. There appears to be some working of faith going on here somewhere. Dave, you started by saying "I want to ask a serious question" but when i finished your note all i saw was a (nice) comment. Bionic Mosquito, i disagree completely with your statement "if Jesus isn't also God, the sacrifice doesn't work" but i tend to agree with your spirit. This forum is not a place to discuss these topics (a coffee house perhaps) but they have something in common that can be discussed: faith.

      The suggestion i am writing to make is this: go through New Testament scriptures, and add the words "in scriptural knowledge" after the word "rich". Suddenly Dave's point above is already made by multiple scriptures, not the least being the one about a camel.

      The book of James gives specificity to what those (like us) rich are contrasted with: those who are "rich in faith". In fact, James treats the subject with such finesse that i don't feel compelled to add to his words here.

      To switch gears, yes i believe the evidence that Jesus is God is overwhelming. But as far as making it a defining aspect of what he and his Father were accomplishing by his life, death, and resurrection? In 56 years of listening to Christians and reading what Christians throughout this age have written, I have yet to find one---one---person who understands what happened on the cross... with the possible exceptions of James, Peter, Paul, John, and the writer of Hebrews. But they did not choose to tell us in words that we could subsequently pick over. Yes, i am being a tad sardonic.

      (To be fair, the first year of those 56 years were spent learning English.)

      I'll close with an analogy: Kings and Chronicles summarize vast stretches of history in a manner that allows us to see certain cyclic issues which, if not solved, keep reappearing until they are. Jesus appeared at the close of a much larger cycle---many different ones' closings intersecting, it seems. The understanding of the best of the best alive on earth doing what God said to do was the Pharisees. We know the conflict. When i read this blog i see the best of the best. I am concerned.

    3. BM - I understand, and I will go along to get along.I do like your blog and the thoughtfulness you put into it. I'm not very good, however, at spotting when someone actually wants a contrary opinion, so forgive me for that.

    4. Dave, I have seen many contrary opinions on this blog over the dozen or so years I have been writing, and some have even swayed me greatly as can be evidenced in my writing (if you care to go through almost 2000 posts).

      I have placed bounds around theological / doctrinal debate for a reason, as mentioned above and often.

  19. I remember watching Flip Wilson back in the Seventies perform a skit in which he played a charismatic preacher of a neighborhood church, called, “The Church of What’s Happening Now”. It seems to me that this has become the prototype for many or the “nondenominational” churches that have popped up everywhere in the last couple of decades.

    Side note: denomination, etym Latin, literally “to name”. So “non-denomination” means...what? No-name? Given the obvious marketing-based promotional efforts dedicated to creating the right edgy, slick, modern (i.e., decidedly tradition-spurning) brand, I think not!

    But how did all of these come about? I think it is reasonable to assert that, to whatever extent we might be able to eliminate the fear motive, it takes humility to subject oneself to authority, but much less so if that authority is of one’s own making. And the process of choosing said authority is also a process of exercising one’s individual and independent rational capabilities. Arguably and a bit ironically, this is largely ego-centric, even if not personally acknowledged as such. Indeed, it is a poor preacher that does not, on a regular basis, subtly stroke the egos of his or her congregants for making such a wise choice as to their spiritual community. An allegiance to a more traditional, multi-generational belief systems eliminates much of this, but still requires humility to follow, since it requires the concession that others, having the benefit of the wealth from many centuries of spiritual practice (e.g., the “Church Fathers”), might know more than I do.

    This might all be anathematic to our more libertarian or individual proclivities, but the fact remains that the process of independent decision making too often deteriorates to being largely an exercise of the ego. And this then encourages division as egos ultimately and inevitably clash.

    As you have wisely stated, the alternative to this is not always perfect. But the search for perfection is not intended to be a communal process in the traditional Christian perspective. I’m not even sure that should be a significant objective. Indeed, if Solzhenitsyn can find and grow in Christ in a prison cell, perhaps we might do at least as well in the antiquated, archaic liturgies of the traditional and ancient Church.

    1. " takes humility to subject oneself to authority..."

      In my walk of faith, this is a continuous struggle. I hope and pray that I am able to overcome it before I pass from this body.

    2. By all means, let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of.....who? What authority deserves your humility? Certainly not the bishops of the various church councils, right? You have read how the 'sausage was made' - the politics, the jockeying for power?
      Humility does not demand blind obedience to fallen men.
      We are called to freedom, as well as humility.
      I like Channing's approach; traditionalists will not.
      "I call that mind free, which jealously guards its own intellectual rights and abilities, which calls no man master, which does not content itself with a passive or hereditary faith, which opens itself to light wherever it may come from, which receives new truth as an angel from heaven, which, while consulting others, inquires still more of the oracle within itself, and uses instructions from others, not to supersede but to enliven and raise its own energies.

      "I call that mind free, which sets no bounds to its love, which is not imprisoned in itself or in a denomination, which recognises in all human beings the image of God and the rights of his children, which delights in virtue and sympathizes with suffering wherever they are seen, which conquers pride, anger, and sloth, and offers itself up, if necessary, a willing victim to the cause of mankind."
      "Religion must be viewed, not as a monopoly of priests, ministers, or sects, not as conferring on any man a right to dictate to his fellow-beings, not as an instrument by which the few may awe the many, not as bestowing on one a prerogative which is not enjoyed by all, but as the property of every human being, and as the great subject for every human mind. It must be regarded as the revelation of a common Father, to whom all have equal access, who invites all to the like immediate communion, who has no favorites, who has appointed no infallible expounders of his will, who opens his works and word to every eye, and calls upon all to read for themselves, and to follow fearlessly the best convictions of their own understandings. Let religion be seized on by individuals or sects, as their special province; let them clothe themselves with God’s prerogative of judgment; let them succeed in enforcing their creed by penalties of law, or penalties of opinion; let them succeed in fixing a brand on virtuous men, whose only crime is free investigation; and religion becomes the most blighting tyranny which can establish itself over the mind."

    3. Dave, it is a difficult matter. However, at some point you must humble yourself under an authority. There are Godly and righteous men out there. Find one, and then show some humility.

    4. Bionic, I have close friends who would probably rise to the level of what you call Godly and righteous. I've been around them my entire life. We have one thing in common: we pray "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner" - and we mean it. We are sinners saved by grace. we love God because He first loved us.
      It is such a leap from those thoughts to the thoughts of someone you would humble yourself before - St. Athanasius - who states that God will punish forever those who do not accept a trinitarian theory thought up by men with agendas in 450 A.D.
      If you do not humble yourself under Athanasius, then you must have a reason; if you have a reason, then you are admitting that authority can be - must be - questioned.
      I'm just pointing out the obvious. According to A church father, I am damned to eternal conscious torment for not accepting his Hellenized theoretics concerning the trinity. Really??
      That's what comes with the wrong take on humility, imo.

    5. Dave, was this statement by Athanasius (assuming it is accurate and not taken out of context) accepted as authoritative by a recognized church council?

      In other words, is this the statement of the Church, or of one Church father?

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. Bionic, I'm uncertain as to what you mean by "the Church". I've seen the Athanasian creed in a number of places - including on the backs of the pews in front of me -in "Books of Confessions" and other places, right alongside Apostle's, Nicean, Westminster, , Barmen, Heidelburg and the rest.
      Are you speaking of a large church body, Catholic or 'Orthodox' or something like that?

    8. From Wiki - and you will find this anywhere you look as far as I can tell:
      "Widely accepted among Western Christians, including the Roman Catholic Church as well as some Anglican churches, Lutheran churches (it is considered part of Lutheran confessions in the Book of Concord), and ancient liturgical churches, the Athanasian Creed has been used in public worship less and less frequently. However, part of it can be found as an "Authorized Affirmation of Faith" in the 2000 main volume of the Common Worship liturgy of the Church of England.[1][2]"
      I will not mislead you as to sources and contexts. I respect myself and others too much to do that.

    9. Dave, after reading this post and commenting numerous times, how is it that you don't understand what I mean by "Church"?

      The Athanasian Creed was not accepted by any Church council - "Church" meaning universal. Your continuing to point to this creed as an example only demonstrates my point.

      It is no discovery to say that some churches (meaning individual denominations, individual traditions, individual parishes) have strayed or have even been corrupted. You are shedding no light by continually making this same point.

  20. Thanks Dave for your serious question.

    My humble opinion is that the "relative importance" of all the "doctrinal rabbit trails" shrinks in the face of the great issue(s). By personal illustration, one day my work seemed important. The following day my son suffered life threatening compound fractures and suddenly my "important" work wasn't even on the radar.

    What's the great issue? How about the Great Commandment? Note the order of the things in Jesus' answer, Love God: 1) with all your heart: 2) with all your soul; 3) with all your mind; 4) with all your strength. Is this in priority order where the heart comes first?

    "The heart has its reasons which reason knows not." - Blaise Pascal

    For me this "commandment" is all about relationship, when you're talking about love it gets personal. And how can you love someone without knowing them?

    This brings to mind the question of omniscience as regards Jesus' statement, "Depart from me, I never knew you." I've heard it explained that Jesus was referring to a deeper kind of knowing, as in Adam knew Eve and begat Abel. A deeper knowing that involves intimacy. It's personal. Sure, God can love us even if we want nothing to do with Him, but intimacy involves two parties. Human nature is often self-centered, seldom God-centered, so maybe reframing the question is in order. What's more important to God? Maybe what's most important to God is for His children to have a personal and intimate relationship with Him. Maybe what's most important to God should also be what's most important to us.

    On the human level, becoming an uber Bible/Theology geek is much easier than coming to know God, but... As one enters into relationship with God it gets easier and the peace of God which passes understanding becomes a personal reality of the heart. At least that's what I've been told. 😎

    I may be naive but it seems to me that the church could do a much better job of discipling the body to know God. Is it because people who have a personal relationship with God and don't fear death are very dangerous people, a threat to Ecclesiastical hierarchies and the institutional church? 😎

    Making people submit to human power structures and lots of rules makes things easier and helps to keep the dangerous people in check. But I seem to remember Jesus saying something about how the gentiles loved to lord it over others, and "it shall not be so among you." Hmmm... Was Jesus a Libertarian?

    Finally... If you ever do find the perfect church with perfect theology and perfect people, whatever you do, DON'T join that church, because you in your humanity will just screw up the whole works.

    1. Thanks Steve, very thoughtful and sincere.
      That situation with your son hit close to home.

    2. Regarding our son... When it was time to set the bones the Dr said our son would scream bloody murder, but don't worry, he won't remember a thing, there will be no psychological trauma. But the screams were so painful for a parent to hear, they echo in our memories. The screws that held his bones together attached to a device outside his leg and we had to push the skin back every day so it would not heal to the screws. My wife was heroic and on the ball and insisted no opiods. (This was before the opiod crisis erupted.) Our son healed well. He recently placed second in the weight lifting competition for the state. God is good. Our son says that what he learned in that trial was worth the ordeal and he's a better man for it. All things work together for good.

    3. Steve, the summarizing of the commandments as done by Jesus really simplifies things for us - hard to follow, but simple to understand.

    4. Agreed Bionic. I think the more we love God the easier the "commandments" become, and eventually they become part of our character as we "mutual mind" with God, the Lover of our souls. I like Dallas Willard's measurement of Christian maturity with the question: What is your first thought/reaction when human/enemy confrontational conflict comes your way? Is it love, forgiveness and prayer for them? Or is it anger with returned hostility? For me this is a concept worthy of lengthy contemplation.

    5. SteveO - that remark of Willard's is very penetrating, thanks.

  21. Yw, SteveO. Those verses are “crystal clear” if one inclines toward the “post hoc” fallacy: they are obvious *after* 2000 of Christian tradition decreed and culture driven by the 7 Ecumenical Councils. The councils were convoked *precisely* because hundreds of “bible scholars”, the crème de la crème of the time, holy people, wise people, a time close to the era of the apostles and immersed in that culture, did not all agree on what such verses mean (to continue the (imperfect) math analogy, they had the “existence” of the solution “proven” by the text, but not the “solution” itself). That’s why they had to come together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in a council, of the Church, to decide. These were highly intelligent and, for the most part, well-meaning people--which shows those attributes are necessary but not sufficient for a "solution."

    Several understandings of the topic arose at that time, and some rear their ugly heads again today—the Church had to sift through them under he who would “teach [Christians] all things and bring to [their] remembrance all that [Jesus had] said to [them]” (Jn. 14, 26) Those who disagreed had their teachings rejected and asked to adopt the conciliar position. Some of those became part of the subject of the original article above, who, even after 2000 years, persist in their ARROGANCE against the teachings of “the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”

    (Note that this phrase “the one” in The Creed is mia (ha!), as employed also in "miaphysites". It is not hen (one/single, although this word appears as “one Lord Jesus Christ”) or mono.) The council rejected interpretations of “crystal clear” passages such as those held in Arianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, etc.—those doubtlessly thought they saw the “obvious” meaning too. No doubt they threw bible verses at each other which is a very sad and fruitless sport—no wonder the Holy Spirit inspired them even unto the selection and use of words, lest they forget that the word for “word” is Logos…

    The Church is ecumenical/ synodical/ conciliar without foregoing being one Church, “the pillar and foundation of truth” (I Tim. 2, 15) uninterruptedly established by Jesus, the Lord and Savior.


    > " takes humility to subject oneself to authority..."
    Check out, e.g., the Patericon/ Sayings of the Desert Fathers for a (sometimes funny, sometimes surprising) view to a cure.

  22. Bionic sure stirred up the hornets' nest with this one...

    I've always wondered why it is that Christian and religious texts in general are always so full of stories and allegory, rather than being a clearly laid out "manual of living". I could be mistaken, but I think Bionic touched on the issue once, something along the lines of "God tried it, they went ahead and ignored the manual".

    Anyway, I can think of 2 reasons...
    1) human reality is too complex to be explained in detail; and
    2) humans like to use reason to interpret, apply, and occasionally bend the rules. They feel bored and constrained if they don't.

    Either way, a belief system can only hope to gain mass appeal by being more poetic than prescriptive. It gets the point across without boring potential converts to death, and ensures that things are kept interesting as they develop.

    The best systems also offer a glimpse at a transcendent reality far beyond the squabbling over issues great and small. Unfortunately, striving towards the former invites the latter, so we're back to "interesting" even with the best of intentions...

    1. Cosmic, I agree: we live in a narrative, not in facts. Life is a story, not a mathematical formula.

      Yet, somehow, an answer to the question "what we believe" must be developed and certain lines must be drawn.

      For this, I believe we must be guided by the early Church councils, with practices regularly tested by Scripture.

  23. Someone - I think Paul Rosenburg - said that the first Christians spent their time trying to do what Jesus said to do, but within a century or so the focus became not doing what He said, but in fighting over how to describe Him. Can I hear an 'Amen'?


  24. The day we humans can fully grasp God and his essence, are god that day. (his? I guess I am an arrogant)

    Scripture does not try to explain Jesus' nature. It posits it as a given - Jesus is equality with God is something that cannot be grasped. Do not expect to do so even once in heaven.

    Any physicist trying to explain light through methematical formulation to, well, me.


    An eagle describes air, thermals and sunshine to King Crabs ...

    Maybe is in the nature of things and is meant to be a toll to seek Him.

    1. Jaime, I am with you on this. Somehow, Jesus is God and man. To try to put this in precise human language seems to me impossible - and unnecessary. Hence, I find the division over the nuance at Chalcedon unfortunate.

    2. It depends on the concepts the words represent.
      Did Jesus become diety at baptism? Is Jesus the archangel Michael? No. Is Jesus a Titan?
      I am all for unity but not at any cost.
      Better to live at peace as neighbors than be at each others' throats under the same roof.
      And good fences make good neighbors.

  25. "Broadly speaking, what I mean by Christian arrogance…this idea that a new generation can somehow find truths unknown to those who have been developing the Christian theology for 2000 years."

    A remarkable statement given that it appears you wish to adjudicate the matter.  Using your line of reasoning, Luther's rediscovery of justification by faith would be disallowed. Furthermore, Catholic novelties such as indulgences, relics, etc. would be (rightly, in this case) disallowed.

    Paul and Peter had ongoing doctrinal disagreements (Gal. 2:11-16). The church debated over decades about the role of circumcision and Paul taught the Gentiles that food offered to idols wasn't defiled while Jewish Christians still abstained from things strangled and food offered to idols.

    "But, after several attempts, they found that all these were capable of being explained away."

    Says who? Schaff?

    "like Jesus was just a really good guy, overly blessed by God?  Closer to a Mother Theresa type, perhaps?  This matters a lot, and these learned bishops couldn’t find a clear defense solely based on Scripture."

    This is easily dismissed:

    (1) Christ is the preexistent God (John 8:58)
    (2) Christ is immortal  (Revelation 1:18, 1 Timothy 6:16)
    (3) Man is not immortal (1 Corinthians 15:22, Isaish 40:6, 1 Peter 1:24, Jas 4:14)
    (4) God the Father clearly addresses Christ as God (Hebrews 1:8-9)

    1. I will take you half-dozen verses and raise you 100:

      To use a corrupted Catholic Church as a point in your favor merely demonstrates my point.

    2. No doubt it's because I'm stupid. That would explain it. :-)
      So be clear - what is the Church you are talking about? That Creed has been used for over a thousand years, and many Church people cheer and humble themselves behind it - if not the exact words, at least the sentiment. What is YOUR reason for disagreeing with it? Or do others have to do your thinking for you? If one Father can be wrong, why not a number of them? Your appeal to the Church - Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox - is no more than an appeal to other human being's thinking and opinions. Follow God, is my advice.
      I'll drop this if you want to. I had hoped to bring some thoughts to stimulate conversation, but apparently that is beyond the scope of this blog.

    3. I will take your 100 verses and remind you not a single one of the scriptures I cited are engaged at any point in the course of the document you linked.

      Not one.

      Hebrews 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

      We look forward to your exegesis of this verse and how the Father addressing the Son as God is really not the Father addressing the Son as God.

      Your reference to the Unitarian link is a bit odd. I'm assuming you are aware that Christ, in becoming incarnate, became a man?

      It seems you missed my point re: Catholic Church.

      You said: "Broadly speaking, what I mean by Christian arrogance…this idea that a new generation can somehow find truths unknown to those who have been developing the Christian theology for 2000 years."

      If a new generation cannot discover unknown truths without risking arrogance, that would preclude the Catholic Church (regardless of state) from finding indulgences and other things previously unknown.

      My parenthetical remark was simply indicating the fact that indulgences, treasury of merit, etc. can't be found in Scripture.

    4. That was well said, and the site is a good one imo.

    5. I read 2 of those unitarian verses and it was clear they are full of complete BS. Why is it obvious? Because they took the verses out of context and claimed the verses prove something that obviously contradicts other Scripture.

      There is no clean way to determine truth here. If we can't build credible arguments or conclusions from Scripture in context then all we are left with is the words of humans and the preferences of humans.

      Creeds are great. I think we can all learn from them as much as they conform to Scripture. But they don't contain any authority outside of how well they explain what the Bible says. Creeds can't be the answer because they are still words from humans. Those humans were ancient and wise but still fallible.

      I agree that new theologies should be met with caution. Truth is eternal not new. But nothing a human says about theology is true apart from its adherence to what was inspired by God.

      This is messy. Chaotic. Anarchic if I might say so. But the only way humans write truth about Scripture if it is produced by the Holy Spirit. We must follow the Holy Spirit as He leads us to Christ and His Word. We can't be 100% certain one human is right over another. We have to trust God and be filled with the Spirit. This is how a Christian lives the life of Christ today.


      Take a look at the link. This discussion is done. None of us commenting at this site, myself included, are in a position to understand the meaning and application of the text that is the source for the image in the link better than those who have offered us the wisdom of the generations, beginning with the disciples of the first Apostles.

      My lament is in the fragmentation of the Church. The purpose here is not to resolve doctrinal disputes. I apologize for having fed into this with my comments.

    7. Unitarians and me ... good fences and all that.

  26. I appreciate the position of the Puritans when the questioned Anglican practice by saying it was not sanctioned by scripture. In this I am influenced by my position as a constitutional originality. However, I recognize that there is nothing immutable about the text of the Constitution as it can be amended, something that is not possible with the Bible notwithstanding understandable quibbling over translation.

    Still the Anglican position seems the better one, namely, why not continue with church institutions and traditions so long as they are not forbidden by scripture. Given the wall-to-wall splitism may I'm wrong there as individual ambition s like to command the field and lead to the atomization of Christianity hat we've seen.

    1. "Still the Anglican position seems the better one, namely, why not continue with church institutions and traditions so long as they are not forbidden by scripture."

      This is similar to the statement offered by VanderKlay, who offered that Sola Scriptura might be better understood this way - test traditions to see if these violate Scripture.

      I really appreciated his insight on this.

    2. That was my comment. Sorry for the typos. I autocorrect.

      As fanaticism now is as ugly as in the past, I value anything that leads to reasonableness, which that is. A dear friend would always say scripture has to be interpreted in the light of other scripture which helps prevent excessive "versism" to coin a phrase. I followed a blog for a short while that was a group of very nice people trading verses with each other. Every discussion went straight to the doctrinal stratosphere and the beating heart of it all was just lost, or so it seemed to me. Like the Constitution which has been -- dishonestly -- interpreted into something grotesque to any lovers of liberty.

  27. In all these words about God, or whomever, there is no direct reference to knowing God. He says Himself in Mt 4:17 "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." Referring to Himself. John the Baptist makes the same reference in. Mt 3

    Theology id not worth spit without the knowledge of God that comes through genuine, deep and continuous repentance.
    Forgive me, a sinner.

  28. I am new to your work and appreciate it so much. I am a 80 year old follower of Christ and wanting to grow even more. Question: If you are familiar with "The Great Controversy" by Ellen White, what are your thoughts of the work, it's truthfulness, etc. A Seventh Day friend gave it to me and I read it. Lots of history and revealing. I would appreciate your thoughts as to it's authenticity? Thank you and Have a Blessed Week! Tommy

    1. I cannot speak authoritatively to this, although I am skeptical of anything from the nineteenth century visionaries.

      Is there a battle between Christ and Satan? Certainly. But I think all Christians agree on this. To the extent White goes beyond traditional teaching, this would be a bridge too far for me.

  29. Dear Bionic,
    Your pursuance of these vital questions is most appreciated. Thank you for having this dangerous discussion.

    Please forgive if my following comment is out of line here, but it seems to me the quest is bogged down in what other people – learned scholars, authorities ancient and modern – say about Almighty God, the Father, Jesus Christ Almighty God, His only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost/Spirit, and the Word of God as transmitted to us through His chosen inspired authors over the millennia in what we call “the Bible.”

    Forgive my seeming – or even, perhaps, blatant arrogance – but it’s really rather simple.

    Instead of concentrating on what others, ancient to current, say about it all, try this study method, which over the course of 40 years I found answers the questions you’re asking. It’s not a method original to me; I believe it’s called the 5-5-5 Bible Study Method, I don’t know for sure – “lost to me in my antiquity,” as it were. I don’t understand why it’s not more recognized and used – except for the suppositions stated by another commenter somewhere above, that to have too many people armed with the facts, more complete understanding, and Truth of Scripture is dangerous to the people in charge of what we learn and obey about God and His Scriptures. This method certainly can be seen to be such a threat to those whose corruption has imposed their rulership over those whose laziness permits it. “All we like sheep have gone astray.”

    Anyway, it’s simple: On the first day of any month, begin with Genesis 1 and read the first five verses. Then turn to the Psalms and read the first five. Then read the first chapter of Proverbs. Then turn to the New Testament and begin with Matthew 1 and read the first five verses. This is the first day. Continue each successive day reading the next five verses of Genesis 1, the next five Psalms, Chapter 2 of Proverbs, and the next five verses of Matthew 1. Continue this method, day by day, until you finish the Old Testament, the Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament.

    There are 150 Psalms. Psalm 119 is very long. I split it into blocks of five verses. When you finish the book of Psalms, go back to Psalm 1 and start over again, regardless of where you are in any of the other readings.

    Proverbs has 31 chapters, one for each day of a 31-day month. On 30-day months, double-up Chapter 31 with one of the other days. In February, compensate similarly. When you finish all the chapters of Proverbs, begin again, regardless of where you are in any of the other readings.

    When you finish the Old Testament, go back to Genesis 1 and begin again. When you finish the New Testament, go back to Matthew 1 and begin again.

    The various OT books and Psalms and Proverbs and NT Gospels and Letters will dovetail. You will find the Bible will open up to you; Scripture by Scripture the Holy Spirit will teach you as you see the connections and comments of the various readings leading to more connections and comments, especially as you begin each segment again, because the order will be constantly changing. Scripture will enlighten Scripture. The Holy Spirit will teach you what consulting no other human commentary, exegesis, study, sermon, or book will or can.

    Of course, you shouldn’t do this study in a complete vacuum. Begin with the best study Bible – or even two or three, side-by-side – you can find, with cross references down the center, wide margins, and lots of notes under the main text. Have a couple of good parallel Bibles with at least four different versions – KJV, NKJV, Living, Word, for example. Have at hand the best Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, Hebrew, Aramaic, Koine Greek lexicons, commentaries, studies, concordances, and a good interlinear Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Bible.
    (Continued below)

  30. Use a soft lead (no harder than HB; preferably a 2B), so you don’t tear delicate Bible paper, with a soft acrylic eraser so the paper isn’t damaged when you want to erase something, mechanical, pencil, so you don’t have to worry about wearing down the point to illegibility nor sharpening to such a point that it can tear the paper, you can take notes in the margins with, noting down insights you will have along the way, and listing cross-references for yourself as you go along. Carry on a conversation between yourself and God as you go along, asking questions, finding answers, learning things you didn’t know before, expressing your heart and mind. This is a form of prayer. And in this way you will not merely learn about God, but get to really know Him. I don’t think using this method you can help it. You will either come to know Him and love Him, or you will throw it all away.

    Have a set of colored highlighters that will only minimally bleed on and bleed through the paper. Assign topics to each color (for me, green represents attributes of God, as illustrated by the green rainbow over God’s throne in Revelation 4:3; blue represents evil, the serpent, the Devil, Satan, demons, the Dragon, violence and sin; yellow represents wisdom and the lovely sayings of God; orange represents sheol, Gehenna, hell, hades, Lake of Fire, and the warnings of God; etc.). Every time you come across verses mentioning/about these things, highlight them with the appropriate color. Makes cross-referencing and finding specific Scriptures much easier. (There is a “colored Bible” with a similar coding, but I found it not very helpful in reality; you may disagree. However, the act of noting the verses and coloring them yourself fixes their significance and location in your mind for easier recall and understanding.)

    You will read through the Bible, even with “stops to consult outside sources along the way,” in a little less than a year. The first year, maybe more than a year, but as you go along year after year, it becomes just golden. And all these years, for me, I still learn things I didn’t see previously, as the Holy Spirit prepares me to see them.

    It is valuable to learn and know church/Christian history and the men and struggles and learning that made it. There’s A LOT. But rather than clearing up questions, trying to get from the copious volumes written by both the actual participants and those who watched and interpreted from the sidelines to get “the” proper interpretation of Scripture and doctrine only causes more confusion, I’ve found. One reason there was such controversy on otherwise seemingly simple concepts is very much the clashing of egos, however sincere. Great men, much humility, okay. But also in many cases much arrogance. They generally understood each other, but wanted their words used and adhered to rather than someone else’s. I know it’s disrespectful to say that. I’m sorry; I mean no disrespect, but I do recognize the truth. People are people. Power and control are the bane of all sincere and humble men, especially when convinced theirs is the most correct understanding. Once practicing the 5-5-5 Bible Study Method, it becomes much easier to simply accept the truths and regard the petty quibbles for what they are, take whatever may be of value, and move on without getting bogged down in them. It’s a stain and a shame on the clean white robes of the Body of Christ that these issues became the rocky shoals of splits and damnation between people who were seeking to honestly understand and follow Jesus Christ Almighty God. But here we are.

    Your experience of using the 5-5-5 Bible Study Method may differ from mine. In that case, kindly disregard my arrogance, and please forgive me for my presumption.

    I wish God’s best blessings on you far more abundantly than you could wish or ask. May He hold you close to His heart, give you His peace, comfort, joy, and protection from harm and from the evil ones as you seek to understand Him and follow Him. Always.