“What’s the Big Deal? Trinitarian Heresies”

“What’s the Big Deal? Trinitarian Heresies”


“What’s the Big Deal? Trinitarian Heresies”

Pastor Ryan J. McKeen




I’ve been trying to, all day, pick some good Trinitarian songs to sing that speak of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. I’ll try to keep my voice going this evening as we were running a little weak this morning near the end, but God will be good, I hope, and get me through this evening and keep my voice strong.

But this morning, as those of you who were here, We covered really the basics of the doctrine of the Trinity. We covered that God is one. We looked at different passages like Deuteronomy 6:4. We looked at several passages that speak that God is one.

There is only one God but also there are three persons. And we looked at several passages of scripture as well that spoke to that the Father is God, that the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. And that’s really the basics of the Trinity. They have eternally always been Father, Son, and Spirit. There’s always been three persons. One or two of them did not come into being later on. God has always existed as a Trinity.

And so those are the things that we believe and confess, not because they are some ancient tradition or anything like that, but because as we looked at all the different places in Scripture this morning that speak to these things. And if Scripture does not support our beliefs, then we probably shouldn’t have them, right? Scripture is where we derive our beliefs from, and we looked at several places this morning that support the doctrine of the Trinity. And the doctrine of the Trinity has been a highly debated issue for a long, long time. And the reason is because there is no specific passage that says the word Trinity or that God is a trinity or anything like that.

This is a doctrine that we deduce from all that the scriptures have to say and we put these things together to help us formulate in our mind and in our words who God is. And so all these things help us to know these things. And as I said, it’s been debated for a long time, and that’s what we’re going to look at tonight. We have our basics of the Trinity that we had this morning, so that’s before us now. And so now we’re going to use these ancient heresies to really trim up what it is that we believe. We’re going to look at what we don’t believe, kind of cut off the things that we know are wrong according to Scripture, because that is often helpful. To look at the errors really help to sharpen the truth, really helps us to see, and we can learn from the past. We can learn from the history of the church. A lot of very good theologians and pastors have already thought these things through and battled for these things.

So, there’s no sense to reinvent the wheel here. We have a lot of helpful resources that are going to teach us and help us to understand what Scripture has to say for us. As we saw this morning, several of the theologians we referred to spoke of the Trinity as the essence of the Christian religion itself. That Christianity is Trinitarianism. That if we want to be Christian, we need to be Trinitarian. As Wilhelmus Brakel said, we need to be exercised about this. We need to put in the work. We need to try to understand these things. We need to try to know God. And that’s what we’re going to work on here throughout this series and then even tonight.

So I want to look at some of the negative side of this doctrine, the things that we do not believe. And that is by looking at the ancient heresies. If you have your papers before you, we’ll go down through the different false doctrines there that are named on your papers, some of them are named after the men that promoted them, while others are named for really a tenant of the doctrine, and that’s really what we see in modalism, which is the first heresy there on your paper. Again, as I said, this is probably going to be more of like a lesson than a sermon, whereas we’re not going to be expounding a specific passage of scripture. We’re looking at more helpful truths that are going to help us understand this doctrine.

Modalism is one of the earliest heresies of the church, and it emphasized God’s oneness so much that it left no room for the three-ness of God, right? The three persons. As we saw this morning, we need to have a balance between that God is one. and yet there are three who are God, and we need to keep those things in balance. We can’t get too off-center either way. Well, modalism is too far to the side that God is one. While it’s true that God is one, this heresy, it collapses the three persons of the Godhead into just one person. Modalism taught that the three persons of the Trinity are just modes of God. that God can be either the Father or the Son or the Spirit at different times, but never all three at once, as the doctrine of the Trinity would say, that all three persons eternally exist. Modalism would say, no, God is in one mode. He can be in the Father mode, the Son mode, or the Spirit mode, but never all of them at once. He’s not simultaneously those things.

So one of the questions on the survey that we spoke of this morning that a lot of you were able to take through the email that was sent out, question number 13 said, true or false, God exists as either Father, Son, or Holy Spirit at different times and for different purposes, but never at the same time. And the answer to that is false. 89% of you answered that correctly, so that’s very good. That is false. Because if it’s true, then modalism is true. That question was formulated because of the doctrine of modalism, that God appears only in one mode or another, not as Father, Son, and Spirit eternally.

But in modalism, there is no eternal fellowship of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Rather, at one point in history, God was the Father, then He came as the Son, and now He is the Spirit. As you see on your paper there, sometimes this is called Monarchianism, and that basically the word just means one ruler or one God. And one of the earliest proponents of modalism was a man by the name of Sibelius, and he lived in the 200s, really 215 AD is when he was around. And he could not reconcile the idea, by his own admission, that there was one God and yet three persons.

Even in, he had a problem with Matthew 28 where Jesus says, go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And he had a real problem with that verse because he couldn’t explain how there could be one God and yet three who we were to baptize people into. So, in believing that there is one God in three persons, instead he maintained that there is one God in three modes. His doctrine is really called Sabellianism, but it’s really just modalism again. Again, that God sequentially reveals himself as different persons.

So imagine like an actor, and we’ve used this illustration before as pastor’s talked about hypocrisy, where you put on a mask of someone else. Well, this is picture God who puts on the mask of the Father. and then he switches to the mask of the Son, and then he switches again to the mask of the Holy Spirit. And now, while we may be able to reconcile some passages of Scripture like that, there are others like the baptism of Jesus. How does that work? You have the Son who is there on earth being baptized, the Spirit who is descending upon the Son, and the Father speaking from heaven.

Well, if God can only be one mode at a time, how did He do all three? It’s because they’re not modes, they’re persons. They’re distinct persons of the one God. So, according to him, God operates in different modes. Well, there was other church fathers, other pastors and theologians that challenged Sabellius. One went by the name of Tertullian. It’s probably a name you’ve heard of before if you have heard of any of church history. Tertullian lived from 155 AD, so very early on, within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament. 155 AD to 240. And he wrote a book, really, and it’s called On the Trinity. And his main target was Sabellius and his doctrines that he was teaching. And Tertullian sought to clarify that the Bible teaches that we worship one God. in three persons.

So basically, the basics of the Trinity that we spoke on this morning. He was very focused on, no, we do have one God and it’s not three modes, it’s three persons. And as you read through Tertullian, he mentions Sibelius specifically and challenges these ideas and really refutes them. And in the history of things, as we look at the outcomes, Tertullian really won that battle. He was much more convincing. He had a much more biblical perspective. And then other church fathers later on taught that not only is God one in three persons, like Athanasius is one, and we’ll get more to him in a minute, he taught that he is eternally that way. and the persons are equal. So more things that kind of help support and shape our doctrines. But modalism is one of the doctrines of the early church. And this is gone by different names, and you’ll see this often. These ancient heresies, nobody wants to take the name of a heresy on, so they change the name. but they really believe the same thing.

So you’ll see different things throughout the history of the church that just appear as something that looks totally new, but if you really dig into it, it’s the same old dog that was here before. These old heresies, it could be that one that came along was patrapassianism, which is a complicated word, but basically means that the father suffered, as the Son. It wasn’t just the Son that suffered, but the Father suffered in Christ coming and dying on the cross. So there’s a lot of technical things to that.

But how do we see this in our own day? Do we see modalism today? And most definitely we do. This is probably one of the most prevalent heresies around today, modalism. You see this in specifically the Oneness Pentecostal movement, but also your apostolic Pentecostal churches. It’s prevalent in a lot of different Pentecostal circles to different degrees. But specifically, you can see by the name, the Oneness Pentecostal, they focus on the oneness of God and ignore the threeness. It’s modalism, really. Famous TV preachers like T.D. Jakes is one who’s a modalist. Stephen Furtick is another one who’s taught modalist things.

So there’s a lot of these ancient heresies that they’re still around today. They still are here. They teach the very same things by a different name. And as you see on your paper there, modalism in any form is heresy. It’s heresy. That’s not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is three persons, three individual persons.

Modern modalists today, they believe there’s one divine person and that they would say that the doctrine of the Trinity, they would even say the doctrine of the Trinity is unbiblical. They believe that Jesus is the only person of the Godhead. They say Jesus exists in two modes. He existed as the Father and then he came as the Son and became the Son at that point. And the Holy Spirit is not a person at all. It’s just a manifestation of Jesus’ power.

So, those are things you’ll hear today, and those are some key words to listen for, but those are things you’ll hear today, and all that is, is a repainted version of modalism, this ancient heresy, that God is just different modes. He’s not actually three distinct persons. And that’s one of the questions on the survey was focused on this as well.

Question 11 said, true or false, the Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being. And that’s false. The Holy Spirit is a personal being. He is not just a force or just the power of Jesus. And 87% of you answered that correctly as well. So again, modalism, one of the earliest ancient Trinitarian heresies is still around, and in any form that claims that God is not three persons, it’s heresy. It’s not the God of the Bible. So if anyone claims to be a modalist or even propounds that modalism and its doctrines are true, that person is not a Christian because they do not have the right God.

We have several passages of scripture as we saw this morning that refute the doctrine When we see Jesus, the Son, praying to the Father, we see in Psalm 110, the Father’s telling the Son, sit at my right hand. You see the two persons there, specifically. You see three persons at times. This is just not a doctrine that squares with what the Bible has to say.

Then we come to partialism. can be, it can be a form of modalism, kind of, but it’s this idea that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all parts of God. And again, this is something that we, even in our thinking, need to be careful of. We don’t want to be thinking that, well, the Holy Spirit’s one part, and the Son is another part, and the Father is another part. Colossians 2.9. tells us of Christ, in him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily, right? So in order to be God, everything that is God dwelt bodily in the body of Jesus Christ. Each one of the persons possesses all that it is to be God. God is not divisible. This is partialism. This leads those who hold to partialism to believe that each of the persons of the Trinity, again, is only a part. And they would say that, those who officially and formally hold to this doctrine, would say that you only have the whole God when all three are together. And when you have only one of them, that’s only part of God.

So when you have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you, you only have part of God. Or when the Son came and dwelt among us, that was only part of God. Well, that’s not what the Bible says, with the fullness of deity dwelt bodily, or He is God with us. Not part of God with us, He is God with us.

Again, this is one of those things that we have to realize that the limit of our minds to think that there are three and yet they’re not divisible and they’re all part of the undivided being of God. It just kind of blows our mind. Like, we reach a limit and it’s just like, the red lights start going off. Like, this is too much. But… We can’t divide God out like that, especially to a point where we’re getting, well, if you have one of the persons, then you don’t have all of God. You don’t have, God is not whole. He’s only whole when they’re all three together. That’s especially when this really breaks down. So that’s partialism. Again, it’s a form of modalism, but you again see this in a lot of, it’s hard to say you see it in Pentecostal or charismatic, super charismatic circles because their doctrine is really hard to pinpoint. But that’s part of those beliefs, is where this partialism is seen today. You see it in other ways, but again, sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint some of the modern forms of these ancient doctrines.

So to keep moving, another big one. Another big one is tri-theism. And as you break this word down, it’s three gods, really. Tri is three, and theism is the word for God. So it’s believing that there are actually three gods. And as we read the Athanasian Creed this morning, Or as they formulated that document, they made specific mention that, well, the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, and yet there are not three gods, but one God. That’s what they were fighting against, was tritheism. Those that said, no, actually, when we see in Scripture that the Father is mentioned as God, and the Son is mentioned as God, and the Spirit is mentioned as God, that’s speaking of three different gods. Well, that’s not true. we know that God is one.

This is a sharp contrast to modalism. Modalism emphasizes the oneness, whereas tritheism emphasizes the threeness. Remember, we talked about you’ve got to have that balance. You’ve got to have both. You can’t go too far into one of those ditches. And even today, some would say that the Father is one, God, and the Son, and so forth, that they’re all separate. Whenever the distinctions of the persons of the Godhead get pressed too far, that’s when we run into this idea of tritheism.

And I think this is an error that we can be prone to, even just functionally in our thinking. We may not say that I’m a tritheist or that there’s three separate gods, but even when we think of God, we need to make sure we keep that balance that God is one and yet there are three who are God. We don’t want to be thinking, well, it’s even hard to explain, but we don’t want to be thinking so much that the three different persons to the discredit of the oneness of God. There is one God. And I was planning to get to this morning the distinction between being and person, and did not get that far in my notes. But as we’ll get there later on, that’ll help us kind of settle on these distinctions a little better.

But we don’t want to come to the point where our distinction of the person is so overwhelming our thinking of God that we’re thinking of God only as three. We’ll get into some more complex doctrines that talk to those things, but God is both three and one. That’s the balance we need to keep.

A theologian from Dallas Theological Seminary, W.H. Griffith Thomas. He’s a linguist and a highly respected theologian. He, speaking on the term person, says this, he says, like all human language, it’s liable to be accused of inadequacy and even error. It certainly must not be pressed too far or it will lead to tritheism. While we use the term to denote distinctions in the Godhead, we do not imply distinctions which amount to separateness, but distinctions which are associated within the essential mutual coherence or inclusiveness.

And Calvin’s really good speaking to these things as well, John Calvin. He makes the clear point that when we think of the persons, we’re thinking of distinction, not division. Okay, we wanna be able to separate the Father, Son, and Spirit functionally, but not make divisions within God. I know this is getting really heady, and it’s really just, it’s getting complex, but we can’t get to the point where we’re thinking, or even assuming there’s three gods.

We just need to keep that, I wanna keep stressing, we have to keep that balance between one and three, because both are true. Again, the modern versions, I mean, formally, not many people confess to being a tritheist these days. But again, functionally, a lot of times this is a default for people. They function as though that the father … And you’ll see this when people talk of, well, the God of the Old Testament, the father, he was really harsh. But then Jesus came, and you’re seeing a separation where there is no separation, right? The God of the Old Testament is Jesus, and it is the Father, and it is the Spirit. Same God as the New Testament. Yes, there are different persons, but we don’t want to separate as though, well, there was the Father, he’s that God, but then Jesus, he’s the nice God, or anything silly like that. There’s one God. They share the same divine essence. Again, tritheam is heresy because it denies scripture’s teaching that there is one true God.

Then we get to Arianism. Arianism is probably one of the more well-known heresies. It is very clearly unchristian. It is a road that you cannot go down as a Christian, is Arianism. There was a man. a Libyan priest in Alexandria named Arius. At one point in Alexandria in the year 318, a riot broke out and people flooded the streets chanting, there was a time when Christ was not. These are people who would be considered Christians. But they were chanting, and that’s the things that they would flood the streets and chant over back then, is what God was like, not some riots and some whatever, the things that people get all worked up about now. They were rioting over what God is like. I mean, could you imagine? But anyways, they were out in the streets in a riot chanting, there was a time when God was not. These were followers of Arius. Or there was a time when Christ was not, sorry. But again, these are followers of Arius. Arius was a bishop in Alexandria. And then that idea was opposed by another bishop named Alexander. And he was of the same town, Alexandria, and his student we know pretty well by the name of Athanasius.

We read the Athanasian Creed earlier today, but Alexander and Athanasius teamed up against Arius and they insisted that Christ is eternally God along with the Father. That no, there was not a time when Christ was not. Arius believed that the Father and the Son are two separate beings, and that the biblical model for their relationship is one of eternal subordination. The Father is the one who decides matters, and the Son is the one who obeys. That’s Arius’ teaching, that God is the all-wise, the one who has the eternal will, and then Jesus is just his servant that goes around and does what God wants. That was Arian’s line of thinking. Arianism taught that the preexistent Christ was just the first and greatest creation, that he was a creature, he was made by God. But they denied full divine status, meaning the eternality of God. So Arius would say Jesus was God, but he was made by the Father to be God. He’s not eternally God like the Father.

So that’s kind of Arius’s error there. And again, this controversy was one of the major important developments of theology of the church in the fourth century, in the 300s. And it was addressed by what we read earlier in the Nicene Creed. 325. 325 AD. There was 300, I believe it was 318 bishops came together to resolve this situation. And the reason they came together is because the emperor, Constantine, the emperor of Rome, was so concerned by these different fights within the church that he called all these pastors together and said, figure it out. We’re not going to have this anymore. We need to figure out what the deal is. You need to figure out what the Bible says about these things.

And so after some very dramatic debates, at which St. Nicholas, the one who Santa Claus is named after, he actually punched or slapped, depending who you read, Arius in the face. So, I mean, it was a little dramatic. It was a heated debate there at Nicaea. And as we see modern versions of Arianism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and don’t think that you can go around being Santa Claus, modern day Arians, don’t do that. It’s not good. But anyways, when we came to the Council of Nicaea, the 318 bishops got together and condemned Arianism. They said, what Arius is teaching is wrong. It is not biblical. And Arius and two others were exiled.

So of the 318, it was 315 to 3. So it was just about unanimous. And they basically banished Arius and the other two because of their error. And so, as you see, by the Council of Nicaea, they addressed modalism from Sibelius, who was earlier, but then also the tritheism of Arius. So, okay, we’ve got the Council of Nicaea, it’s figured out, all done, right? Not so much. After the Council of Nicaea, areas really stirred up quite a good following, and there was a lot of people who thought they got it wrong. They thought the Council of Nicaea was an error, that they shouldn’t have banished them. In fact, Constantine started to lobby to change the wording of the count, the Nicene Creed. He wanted to actually change it. And all these bishops are like, no, we’re not done. It doesn’t matter what the people are getting all riled up about. This is what the Bible says. Arius was wrong.

So that’s just a little history of how the Nicene Creed came about. And really as Constantine was trying to stir up or lobby to get the Nicene Creed changed. The biggest obstacle to him doing that, the one who fought the hardest was Athanasius. Athanasius really is a pillar in the early church. He fought hard for the truth. He gave up a lot for the truth. He was, after his predecessor Alexander, He was elected as bishop in 328, so shortly after the creed was formed. Athanasius found it appalling that Arius insisted that the son was created. According to Athanasius, the son was eternally begotten from the father so that he can be said to be of the same essence with the father. And so one of the things Athanasius brought to the conversation is very, very precise wording.

We need to be careful with the words we use. And that’s what he did. And if you, I don’t want to confuse too much, but if you do any reading on these things, you’ll see the terms like homoousios and homoiousios, that’s of the same essence. And there’s a lot that you can get bogged down in the weeds there. But Athanasius was a stickler for the words. We need to get it right. And he did. He fought for the doctrine of the Trinity and really the doctrine of Christ and his incarnation as well. He wrote a book called On the Incarnation. And he said in that, with the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of our salvation hangs in the balance. If we get the Trinity wrong, we get our salvation wrong. And he’s right.

The Bible’s teaching on Christ’s atonement requires, and this is Athanasius speaking, kind of summarized into the modern English, the Bible’s teaching on Christ’s atonement requires a mediator who is fully God, with the holiness to make a perfect offering for sin, and also fully human, one who truly represents those to be reconciled to God. And Athanasius is making the case, guys, this has to be true. It has to be this way, otherwise we aren’t saved. If Christ is not fully and truly God, while at the same time fully and truly man, he can’t save us. That was his argument. And he was exactly right. Salvation depends on Christ being God, not Christ being like God. No, he has to be God in order to save us. Athanasius insisted on only God can save humanity.

So Jesus Christ must be truly God. No creature, no created being, as Arius would say Christ was, had the power over sin and death. And no creature could offer eternal life. Only the creator, who gives life, could do this. So Athanasius argued that Arianism makes salvation impossible. Because no matter how high one’s status is, if the sun is only a creature, he cannot save. So that’s Athanasius and the kind of contributions he made, not only to the Nicene arguments, but to good orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and of Christ. Following Athanasius, I mentioned briefly this morning the Cappadocian fathers. I read that quote from Gregory of Nazianzus that was really good. He has another great quote here where he famously said, that which was not assumed is not healed. But that which is united to God is saved. And he’s speaking of Christ there.

So as Christ took on humanity, he had to take it all on. He had to be fully and truly man. Otherwise, there would be some part that’s not saved. Whatever he redeemed and saved, that is what he took on. So that was his argument there. But we’ll keep moving. Gregory, he understood what we believe about Christ is connected to what we believe about salvation. and that Christ had to be fully human if he was mediator between God and man. So you had the two kind of pillars there. Athanasius argued for the full divinity, and Gregory argued for the full humanity. And they weren’t in opposition to each other. They were on the same team. They both were emphasizing different things in their writing, but they were both right. Jesus is fully God, truly God, and fully and truly man.

So, Arianism today, where do we see this error, this heresy today? Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are Arian. They are Arian through and through. In many respects, they may sound Christian, and they will tell you they worship Jesus. They do not. They believe Jesus is a creature. And so if they are truly worshipping Jesus, the Jesus they’ve created, they’re worshipping a creature. They’re worshipping an idol by their own admission. But, like the Arians of the early church, they believe Jesus is a mere creature and not equally and eternally God. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. And they’ll do some interesting things with the wording of scripture, twisting things and making it sound like, oh, see, we have the same Bible. And we don’t. We don’t. Jesus, as the Nicene Creed said, is light of light and God of God. He is God in the flesh. Their official doctrinal position, this is from the Watchtower. doctrinal manual, their official position is that Jesus is Michael the Archangel. And he was the first being created. And to quote their watchtower, they say, Jesus is the sole direct creation of God. So in their view, God created Christ first, and then Christ created everything else. That’s Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are Arian, Arian all over. In their view, God created Christ, and then Christ created everything else. So they reject the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ.

Another Arian cult is Mormonism. Mormonism teaches that Jesus is the son of God, and that he’s fully divine, but he’s not eternal. That he was, he came about later. In this view, Jesus was created and Jesus and Satan are brothers. According to Mormon doctrine, Jesus is the firstborn spirit son of God. While according to Joseph Smith, the founder and first prophet of Mormonism, he says that among the spirit children of Elohim, the firstborn was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all others are juniors. It’s Arianism. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, they’re Arians. They believe Jesus was created. They don’t believe he’s fully and eternally God. So that’s where we see this ancient doctrine that was refuted and defeated within a couple hundred years of Jesus being alive. These heresies are still around. They’re still among us. Anyone who holds to any form of Arianism or Tritheism is not a Christian because they worship the wrong Jesus. They worship a Jesus that they have created.

Then, the next one on our list here is Socinianism. This is, again, a heresy named after a person, named after Fausto Sozzini, or Sozzini, or Socinius would have been his more formal name. He was a product of the skepticism of the Italian Renaissance. And we’ll go through these a little more quicker as we go now. Because those first three, modalism, tritheism, and Arianism, those are the major ones. A lot of these are kind of sub. They come out of these other doctrines. But these are just other forms of them. So Sinianism denies a lot of things, really. I don’t even. It’s interesting why it’s considered a Christian heresy, because of all the things they actually They deny the deity of Christ. They deny original sin, predestination, total inability. They deny the atonement. They deny substitutionary satisfaction. They deny justification by faith alone. For many, many reasons, Socinianism is heresy.

Modern Socinianism, really a form of it at least, is Unitarianism. You see churches that are Unitarian churches? Well, that’s what this is. Unitarian is a term that came about in the 1680s in England, and it’s less pejorative and more descriptive than Socinian. You don’t want to be named after a heretic. You don’t want to have a heretic’s name on your church. So you put something else. It’s a little more broad, like Unitarian. But coming out of the Renaissance, Unitarians are rationalists, which means it has to make sense to me. And that’s why they deny all these biblical doctrines. If it doesn’t make sense to my fallen human mind, then it can’t be true. So, they deny the Trinity. They deny the Incarnation. Most Unitarians argue that there is little or no support for the Trinity, and so they deny it. They reject it. They teach things that are inconsistent with it. Unitarianism elevates human reason above Scripture. They believe that something can only be true if it makes sense. So therefore, as a denial of scripture, as a denial of God, as he is revealed, Unitarianism is heresy.

Then, if we flip over to the back of your page there, we have more kind of minor, well, minor in the sense that they’re smaller, false doctrines in this first one. I included it because it’s prevalent today. This one, ESS, or Eternal Subordination of the Son, it is held by those who are not heretics. It does not necessarily heresy, but it is a wrong teaching that can lead to heresy. And it’s the idea that The son is eternally subordinate to the father. Now, most of your modern theologians that hold to this, some of the bigger names today would be Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, Doug Wilson, I think, several of those guys. They would, and again, these are not heretics. I’m not saying that. I disagree. I think they’re wrong.

And many, many theologians have challenged them on this, that the son is not eternally subordinate to the father. And the reason is this. When you are subordinate, when you submit one to another, what is it that is submitting? It’s your will. You submit, if I’m gonna submit to someone else, I submit my will to their will. Well, if you’re saying the Son is eternally subordinate, you’re saying there’s two wills there, the Father’s will and the Son’s will, within the being of God, the eternal essence of God, you’re positing, and they wouldn’t necessarily explain it that way, but that’s the conclusion that it leads to.

And again, they hold to good formulations of the Trinity and things like that. But again, as many good theologians have challenged them in writing and in debate and different things, this opens you up to several ancient heresies. There is no safeguard there against Arianism, against Tritheism, all these things. Eternal subordination is a, I would say it’s a false teaching. It doesn’t align with what scripture says.

Like the passages they would use to support this, where Jesus is praying in the garden. And he says, not my will, but yours be done. And see, Jesus is submitting to the Father. Yes, that’s true. But what’s different about that than about Christ eternally? Well, Christ took on humanity. including a human nature and a human will. There in the garden, Jesus, in his agony, is submitting his human will to the divine will, to the will of God. He has both. He took on humanity. He has both. He’s submitting there his human will to the divine will. That is not an eternal characteristic of Christ, of the Son. What you’re doing there is exactly what Arius was doing. That there’s two. That the son is just a servant of the father that goes around and does his will. You’re making two gods there. So that’s not an eternal characteristic.

So I would argue against those who hold eternal subordination. So I just threw that one in there because that’s a prevalent one today. It’s not necessarily popular because there’s a very small number of men that hold it. But it’s one that we need to be aware of. But to get back into some more, and I put that with the others that it’s kind of more related to, but let’s go through some of these last few very quickly.

Docetism, it basically focused on Jesus’s divinity. It’s a form of Gnosticism. It was a dualistic approach that says the spirit is good, the flesh is bad. Therefore, Jesus was only spirit. He was only divine. He didn’t actually take on human flesh. So he couldn’t have taken that on. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be good. He wouldn’t be perfect. He only had the appearance of a man. That’s what docetism teaches. Again, you see this in New Age, quote unquote, Christianity or Christian scientism. That would make more of these dualistic distinctions. But it denies the humanity of Christ. So therefore, it is heresy for the same reasons Athanasius argued for. If he didn’t dig on humanity, he couldn’t save humanity. some others adoptionism just this idea that that Jesus either at his it was either at his baptism most believe it’s his baptism those who are adoptionist or at his, what was the other one? Most of them are his baptism. I think the other one is his mount of transfiguration, that the human Jesus was adopted as God’s divine son. That he started out fully human, no divine at all, but then he was adopted as God’s son. That’s just, it’s against scripture. It doesn’t, but there are those who believe that he was adopted as the son.

Then you have some very obscure ones, Ebionitism, which believes that Jesus was just human, but he was very spiritually gifted.

And then Macedonianism believes the Holy Spirit is a created being. So really, anything you can think of, there’s probably an ancient heresy out there that is represented here.

And then that last one, the Filioque Controversy, this is what separates the Eastern Orthodox from the West. It gets down to the that term there in Latin filioque is and the son that the spirit proceeds from the father and the son The Eastern Orthodox believe the spirit only proceeds from the father and the West everyone else Sees that it’s no it’s the father and the son.

So that’s really what divided them when that happened and that’s called the filioque controversy for that reason so again, I hope this wasn’t too academic and heady, I hope you can see the importance of being careful with our doctrine and holding to the things that we can know about God. That God has revealed himself clearly as one God and as three persons who are God. And we can know that for sure because of God’s word. And we need to hold to those things.

And as I said this morning, frustration is what leads to these heresies. All these men that started these heresies were frustrated that it didn’t make sense to them, and so they were gonna make it make sense. Don’t do that. Even if it doesn’t make sense to your mind, there are things we have to accept on faith. If God’s word says it, it’s true, and I believe it. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense to my finite human mind. And I’m not saying that God is nonsensical. God is not irrational. God is not… I’m not saying he’s nonsensical like that. What I’m saying is our minds are too limited to understand a God who is infinite. We just need to realize that when we come to doctrines like this.

So I hope this has sharpened your understanding. I hope even if you see some of these maybe in your own understanding of things in the past, or as it helps you to get a better grasp of things, I hope this has really just sharpened the things that we need to stay away from. I think if you remember anything, remember we need to keep that balance. Keep the balance that there’s one and three, and three and one. Don’t get too far one way or the other. They’re both true. And we need to hold them both as true.

Let’s stand and close in a word of prayer this evening. Father, I thank you for this time. It is maybe not as rich and enjoyable as looking at some of these things that are true. But as we look at some of these things that are false, it is a warning to us. Just a good reminder that we do need to know what we believe. And it drives us to thank you and praise you for your revelation that you have revealed yourself to us in ways that we can understand. And while our grasp is limited because of who we are, we know that we can trust you because of who you are. We thank you for all these things, and we pray that your name would be glorified in our life, and that you would just help us to have a better understanding, and that it would drive us to be more like Christ in all that we do. We pray all of these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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