View Poll Results: Survey on Member Religious Preferences - Choose what best describes your beliefs

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  • Far East religions i.e. Taoism, Hinduism, Confuciousism, Buddhism, etc.

    3 2.75%
  • Islamic religions

    0 0%
  • Jewish religions i.e. Messianical Jew, Yiddish, Orthodox etc.

    0 0%
  • Christian religions organized before 1800 A.D.

    19 17.43%
  • Christian religions organized after 1800 A.D.

    24 22.02%
  • Pagan

    4 3.67%
  • Atheist

    23 21.10%
  • Different religion not based on a belief of traditional God(s).

    2 1.83%
  • I draw my beliefs from one or more religious traditions to make it my own.

    16 14.68%
  • Don't affiliate with a religion or have any interest.

    18 16.51%
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Thread: Survey on Member Religious Preferences

  1. #211
    rubrarubra's Avatar
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    Christianity = Following Christ
    Mormonism = Sort of following Christ, with a bunch of Bible-contradicting doctrine added on.

    That is why I don't beleive Mormonism to be a valid form of Christianity.

  2. #212
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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (wolfpackgurl @ April 14 2004,8:57)]Mormons are Christians according to their beliefs that doesn't mean other people have to see them as being christians nor do they have to see others as being christians.
    Thanks WPG for what you have said. *I believe, entirely, that you have no animosity or any strong convictions on whether I am a Christian or not. *

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  3. #213
    Odysseus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (rubrarubra @ April 14 2004,9:05)]Christianity = Following Christ
    Mormonism = Sort of following Christ, with a bunch of Bible-contradicting doctrine added on.

    That is why I don't beleive Mormonism to be a valid form of Christianity.

    That is just ridiculous and offers no intelligent edge to our debate about the trinity. *I am fine with offering response to the challenges made here about my Church. *However, I won't stand to statements, especially like your last one, where extreme generalizations about my Church is made without any reason or information backing it up.

    Remember, Peter. *More people than you or I are reading this thread and I think you owe me and my Church the dignity to not make claims as harsh as this last one. *Frankly, you don't know enough people in my church to make the claim that they are "sort of following Christ." *Please, don't hesitate to be respectful here. *

    *Please? *

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  4. #214

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    I'm from Mississippi but I go to college In New Orleans
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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (Odysseus @ April 14 2004,8:04)]First of all, the "Christian" issue: *
    I have heard several of you say things like, "I go with who my Church says is Christian or not." *Just curious. * *Why does your Church even spend time teaching it's patrons how to discern between people claiming to be Christian? *Why is it important to call someone NOT Christian when they fully believe they are Christian? *Isn't it up for the individual to decide? *
    Well doesn't your church have a defination of what being a Christian is since Mormons say they are Christians?? My theory is this, when a Church says they are Christian then there is a reason as to why they claim that. As for the Roman Catholic Church we do have a set of beliefs as to what make a Christian a Christian anyone who doesn't have all of those beliefs are not Christians to the Roman Catholic Church. We really don't care if you call yourself a Christian b/c we might not be Christians to other religions. To each his own. If you believe you are a Christian we are very curious to find out why and then we will tell you according to our BELIEFS why we BELIEVE you are not and you can tell us why we're not, but if you ask people to put THEIR BELIEFS apart and think of it in a general term most of us including priest will say yes Mormons are Christians. We are taught what is a Christian and so is everyone who claims to be one. To us it's not important to call someone a non-christian. If they believe they are then that's fine. We just want them to understand this is what we believe and you want us to understand this is what you believe. We are all set in our own beliefs and nothing can change that. I argue using my beliefs and so do you. I can also argue putting my beliefs aside. I can't even use the KJV Bible b/c that isn't the Catholic Bible and there are many texts missing from that Bible that the Catholic Bible has. I mean if someone says I'm not Christian then I'm oh yeah but i'm Roman Catholic and proud, then i will say why i am Christian.
    I love Vin Diesel!! *Growl* Nobody better talk bad about him or else!!!

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  5. #215

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    I'm from Mississippi but I go to college In New Orleans
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    Odyssey you give me good reasons that i can dispute w/ and you don't put me down and I hope I don't put you down about anything. I hope you just understand I am using my beliefs to give reasons why just as you are. I'm not using the Catholic Bible I am using the Catholic Catechism to give my reasons for what I say. But in the end it's just a fun way of understanding your religion in a peaceful manner. I feel kinda like we are at a cafe talking and saying wise things to each other to better understand our beliefs and going away w/ the knowledge that wow there are more differences and similarites then we think. I would never say your church is wrong or you don't know what you are talking about. I am just giving my opinion based on my faith just like you are. So in the end there is no right or wrong on our beliefs just the fact that we better understand each other.
    I love Vin Diesel!! *Growl* Nobody better talk bad about him or else!!!

    Squirdword-\"Why do today what you can put off 'till tomorrow.\"
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  6. #216
    Odysseus's Avatar
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    Perfect! * *That is already what I understood about you. No problem, WPG!

    About what you said here:
    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ]Well doesn't your church have a defination of what being a Christian is since Mormons say they are Christians??
    Sure, we have our doctrine and our beliefs. *We have reasons why we are Christian. *But OUR reasons for being Christian includes beliefs like i.e. a polytheistic Godhead that differs from other Christians. *But, we don't then assume that other Christian beliefs who don't parallel ours aren't Christians, no. *Just that they are another Christian church. *

    P.S. Wolfpackgurl, has your Mom been visited by the Mormon missionaries again since the last time you mentioned it? *How is that going? * *
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  7. #217

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    no she hasn't been visited by them again. on the Catholic website that I go to we have non-christians. not meaning a bad thing though just that that's what we believe but i have never been taught who is not a christian.
    I love Vin Diesel!! *Growl* Nobody better talk bad about him or else!!!

    Squirdword-\"Why do today what you can put off 'till tomorrow.\"
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  8. #218
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    Hi Odysseus (and WPG),

    I think the problem that Mike and RR and others have with what you are saying is not that you are a Mormon in itself, but that you also claim to be a Christian. You are free believe what you want, but if people can look at two different people with totally varying beliefs on basic tenants of Christianity who both call themselves Christians, then they could conclude that it really doesn't matter what you do or believe.

    Obviously, we are not to judge who is truly following God to the best of their abilities or not. We, as humans, are not masters of the universe, and can not judge the heart. That is God's position. However, even we know there can only be one truth. For example, the number 3 can not be used to describe [****], [**], [***], and [****1/2]. The number three can ONLY be used to describe [***]. Now, in the case of Christianity, we only have the Bible to describe what the word "Christian" stands for. If everything you believe lines up with what the Bible teaches, you can call yourself a Christian without violating the definition of the word. Similarly, if what you believe lines up with the Q'uran, you can call yourself a Muslim, or with the teachings of Confucius, a Confuscionist, or with you own new set of beliefs, an Odysseonist.

    Basically, if your beliefs differ with the teachings of a religion or worldview in any of the major tennants, you are of a different religion, whether named or not. In this case, you differ (from what I could see) from the Bible on several issues, including the trinity, relevance of false prophecy in the believability of a prophet, and others. The set of beliefs you hold to has a name: Mormonism. But to call this set of beliefs "Christianity" would be to violate the definition of the word and to be a false witness to the Christians who hold to the Bible as it stands. This doesn't go only for you - much of the "Christian" church I would be slow to label Christian because of major differenes or misinterpretations of God's word.

    I must say that you personally and your church in general has many characteristics which more Christians would be wise to follow you example in: zeal, compassion, etc.. You personally have been quite patient, and though you aren't always able to answer questions put to you, you at least try and do so politely. I admire you for that. I personally can't agree with your church because of major theological contradictions, restrictions, and fallacies (imo), but as far as carrying out what you believe to the fullest goes, you have my admiration!

    This has been an interesting debate, I have enjoyed reading up on it in my spare moments, and learned a lot, as I'm sure many others did as well.

    God bless,


  9. #219

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    hi Noah. that was what I was saying I totally agree with you on that.
    I love Vin Diesel!! *Growl* Nobody better talk bad about him or else!!!

    Squirdword-\"Why do today what you can put off 'till tomorrow.\"
    Mr. Krabs-\"What is today but yesterday's tomorrow.\"
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  10. #220

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    Hi Guys,
    * *Here is what mainstream Christianity teaches..
    Expressing divine being
    In giving this single session to a direct study of the biblical teaching about God we have no alternative but to be highly selective in our focusl. It is beyond the scope of this single unit to include a study of the nature, character and attributes of God, and the many other issues besides. Our purpose is simply to direct our attention upon 'the nature of the expression of the being of God' An examination of what Christian doctrine traditionally refers to as 'the Trinity'. The word 'Trinity' is not found in the Bible and creates many difficulties in understanding. It was first used by Tertullian [c.l90 AD], but did not become part of the formal theology of the church until the 4th century AD. We prefer to use the phrase
    'Godhead'; as it is free from the communication problems that the word 'Trinity' has attached to itself over the years.
    Chtistian teaching about the nature of the expression of the being of God has been described as 'the distinctive and all comprehensive doctrine of the Christian faith'. As the central teaching of the Christian faith it affilms that God is one, personal and triune. It draws together belief in the personal nature of God, incarnation, atonement, life of the Spirit, and the ultimate relation of redeemed people to Christ in God. At its heart it proclaims three inseparable truths:
    . . One God.
    . Father, Son, Holy Spirit, each God. . Father, Son, Holy Spirit, each distinct.
    Revelation and experience
    The Bible does not give us anything approaching a formulated statement about the nature of the
    Godhead, but it contains all the elements for constructing as true an understanding of a profound m.ystery as is possible. The truth is implicit in the Hebrew Scriptures,and more clearly explicit in the New Testament; and on this basis was expounded by the early Church. It is essential to understand that the truth, that 'in the unity of God there is a tri-unity of persons', can only be known because of the revelation of the person of Jesus. It would remain completely unknown without it.
    It is im portant to remember that the New Testament understanding of Godhead arose out of the spontaneous expression of Christian experience. It was a fact in experience long before it was formulated into a doctrine. As we shall see it was the pressure of the necessity for Christians to distinguish Jesus from God, and yet to identify him with God, that led to their experience being formulated in words.
    1 Of course a multitude of dimensions of the biblical teaching about God are covered when the Workshop course is taken as a whole.

    Parable and paradox
    It is of course always a struggle to discover those words that will do justice to the truth of revelation and experience. This struggle reaches its climax in our attempt to express in verbal form the biblical teaching about the Godhead. It has been so well said, that:
    'our conception of God must fall short of his real being,
    and our language of him must fall short of our conception'
    Down through the centuries of Christian teaching many people have looked for a solution to communicating this truth in parables from nature:
    . the Celtic missionary Patrick used the three leaves of the Irish shamrock.
    . the unity and diversity of ice, water and steam2 .
    While these may be useful aids to reinforce communication, they are crudely finite illustrations which are quite inadequate to express the infmite nature of God.
    So as we embark upon our task we shall be straining conception and language to their limits. We must heap paradox upon paradox. Yet for all our limitations, and incompleteness in our statements, we must look in everything for the ring of truth.
    Awesome monotheism
    'Monotheism', the belief that there is only one God; it is foundational to all biblical revelation about God. It is deeply embedded throughout the Hebrew scripture and the New Testament, and no understanding of Godhead must detract from this bedrock truth.
    When God revealed his name, 'YHWH' - 'The One who is', to Moses [Ex. 3:14; 6:2-3],
    implicit in that revelation was the oneness and unity of God. One God, and the oneness of God, is the cardinal teaching of the Jewish faith. Centuries after the biblical period the great Jewish philosopher, Maimonides [1125-1204 AD], was to express Hebrew faith in the words:
    'the Creator ... is a unity ... there is no unity in any manner like unto his, and he alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be'.
    The Hebrew scriptures proclaim the 'oneness' and 'unity' of God most clearly in the 'Shema' [Ot 6:4-9], the most important of all Jewish declarations of faith:
    'Hear, 0 Israel:
    the Lord [Yahweh] our God [Elohim],
    is one Lord [Yahweh].'
    This central biblical statement on the Hebrew concept of God is seen as stating 'absolute monotheism'. However, it is open to a number of possible translations:
    . 'Yahweh is our God! Yahweh alone!'
    This emphasises the exclusive position ofYahweh. The environment in which this revelation took place was infested with 'polytheism' [the belief that there are many gods], which constantly imperilled Israel's unique faith. The 'Shema's emphasis on the 'oneness' and 'exclusiveness' of Yahweh stands in
    2 they must be understood to be able to coexist together as at 'triple point' in physics, otherwise they illustrate one of the most famous heresies about the 'Godhead'. as we shall see!

    total opposition to polytheism. The Exodus, the event that forms the backcloth to the 'Shema', illustrates in action the exclusiveness of Yahweh; his conquest of Egyptian gods and his rule over nature.
    11 'Yahweh our God is one single Yahweh!'
    This emphasises the oneness and unity of God. It has been said, 'He is not a God who can be split up into various divinities and powers [like the Baal's etc.] but one who unites in himself as a single person everything that Israel thought of as appertaining to God'.
    So whatever translation is taken, and both may be intended, the truth of absolute monotheism is clear.
    Provocative questions
    However, God's 'monotheistic unity' is not necessarily a 'monolithic unity'. A close study of the Hebrew scriptures raises tantalising suggestions that by no means everything on the subject on the nature of God's being has been said. There are statements, observations and inferences throughoUl the text that suggest there is more and raise provocative questions.
    At this point we must move cautiously. Because we stand on the ground of New Testament revelation and centuries of Christian reflection upon it, it is difficult for us to read the Hebrew scriptures without immediately imposing new covenant perspectives on the text. When searching these documents for clues to an understanding of the Godhead we must remember that we can make verses say anything we want to if we are not careful. We must read the text sensitively so as not to miss the most beautiful and subtle truths to be discovered at the first level of understanding. With this word of caution we begin to explore what further revelation, and truth in embryo, is to be found within the Hebrew text.
    D The use of the word 'Elohim'
    Throughout the Hebrew scriptures the plural 'Elohim' is used for God, [the singular would be 'Eloah'1, with the verb in the singular. Much is made of this by some Christians, who insist that it demands revelation of a plurality in Godhead. Of course this plural form is able to contain, perfectly, all the unfolding revelation of God's being which is to be brought into focus in the new covenant. However, in the context of the Hebrew scriptures 'Elohim' must be understood as an honorific title; in the same way as royalty say 'we' when they means 'me'. The Jewish community would have had no other understanding than it referring to the greatness and majesty of God.
    Closely linked with the use of 'Elohim' are other passages which link the plural with the singular when God is speaking:
    . Gen. I :26 'Let us [pI] make human kind ...'
    . Gen. 3:22 'they have become like one of us [pI]...'
    .Isa. 6:8 'who shall I [sing.] send, who will go for us [pl]'.
    Again, while these are tantalising phrases, they are first and foremost to be understood only in an honorific sensc. To do more is to squeeze the text too hard.
    11 The presence of 'theophany'
    A 'theophany' is a visible appearance of God in human form. Their occurrence in scripture are fascinating and shrouded in mystery. Frequently they are in the form of 'the angel of Yahweh' who is sometimes given and accepts divine honour [cf. Gen 16:2-13]. Two theophanies in particularly hint at something more to be understood:

    . Gen.18:1-22: The three men who call at Abraham's tent at Mamre: "The Lord appeared to him... behold three men stood in front of him".
    . Josh.5:13-16: Joshua before 'the commander of the Lord's army'; Joshua worships him, he is commanded to remove his shoes as Moses was at the bush in Midian.
    The particular interpretation of these passages is difficult, but they are pieces in the unfolding pattem of revelation.
    . The Messiah ascribed with divinity
    The figure of the Messiah is not merely that of a human person; he is ascribed with divinity even when he is seen as a person distinct from God.
    . Isa.7:14 '... and shall call his name Immanuel' [God with us]. .Isa.9:6 'he will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God...'
    . The work of the Spirit
    The Spirit of God is spoken of in various forms of operation. When all the various references to the Spirit are drawn together the accumulative evidence reveals more than just a reference to divine power, but rather distinct personality.
    .the Spirit equips the Messiah for his work [Isa 11:2,42:1; 61:1].
    .the Spilit equips the people with faith and obedience [Joe12:28; Isa 32:15; Ezk 36:26-27 etc].
    11 The personification of wisdom
    In Proverbs 8:22-31 'wisdom' is spoken of as being a person, sharing with God in the work of creation.
    "I was beside him like a master craftsman" [v30].
    However, wisdom appears to be created. Nevertheless, 'wisdom' in the passage has long been. attempted to be linked with 'the logos' in John 1:1-14. [cf. also Job 28:23-27].
    . The threefold source
    There are occasions where a threefold reference suggests plurality in the unity of the Godhead:
    . Gen 1 :2-3: The opening of the Hebrew Bible attributes the existence and preexistence of all things to a threefold source [God, Word, Spirit].
    .Isa. 48:16: The 'servant of the Lord' links his work with that of God and the Spirit.'And now the Lord God has sent me and his Spirit'.
    . NUM.6:24: This threefold blessing of Aaron is suggestive of the apostolic blessing in 2Cr.13: 14 :
    "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give
    you peace".
    "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of
    the Holy Spirit be with you all". ~

    New dimensions
    While the Hebrew Scriptures proclaim the 'oneness' and 'unity' of God they are strewn with hints that much more remains to be revealed. As the New Testament opens the truth is out!
    With the dawning of the New Testament era and the ministry of Jesus the true dimension of Godhead becomes immediately apparent:
    11 The angel's communication to Mary [Lk 1:35].
    . the Holy Spirit came upon her. [Spirit]
    . the Power of the most high overshadowed her. [Father]
    . the child was called the 'Son of God'. [Son]
    . John the Baptist's preaching [Mt 3:11].
    . repentance towards God [Father].
    . faith in the coming Messiah [Son].
    . baptism in Holy Spirit coming [Spirit]. [water just a symbol].
    . Jesus' baptism in the Jordan [Mk 1:9-11]. . the Father speaks.
    . 'this is my beloved Son'.
    . the spirit descends as a dove.
    At the conclusion of Jesus' ministry [Mat 28:19] we are presented with the first express statement of the Christian teaching about the Godhead. This simple statement becomes the skeletal formula for all later credal statements:
    '... in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit'.
    Notice that 'the name' is singular but that its expression is plural. Notice that Jesus states there are distinctions in the Godhead, but at the same time it is important to realise that scripture is always guarded in how it pemlits these distinctions to be stated.
    Incarnation focus
    It is the incarnation that brings the biblical understanding of God to crisis. It is in Jesus that the New Testament teaching about the Godhead begins to unfold clearly. It was derived from, and tested hy, the truth of the incarnation:
    . the incarnation distinguishes between Father and Son, and yet sees them both as God.
    . the God the Hebrew scriptures is 'Father': what is unique to the New Testament is that 'Father' and 'Son' are God, and that God is 'the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [cf Rm 15:6; 2Cor 1:3; Eph 1:3; IPet 1:3].
    . Jesus Chlist is truly God the Son, and distinctly God the Son [In 1:1, 18; 20:28; Col 2:9; Tit 2: 13; Heb 1 :8, 10].
    Jesus directly linked himself to the God of Israel:
    . M t 22:43-46: Jesus says he is the 'Son', not just of David, but from a source that made him David's lord, and that this had been so even when David uttered the words of Ps 110.
    . Jn 8:58-59: Jesus identifies himself directly with Yahweh; "Before Abraham was, I am". There are also the distinct "I am ..." sayings throughout John's gospel.

    . J n 18:5-6: Jesus, when asked to identify himself in Gethsemene, utters the declaration, "I am", and they all fall backwards; there is shock at his statement
    and power in the words. t. J
    Jesus makes it clear that there is a distinction between himself and the Father and the
    Comforter. John 14-17 contains some of the most important scriptures about the relationship
    between the persons of the Godhead. In summary it teaches that:
    "The Father who is God sent the Son, and the Son who is God sent the Spirit".
    So the teaching of Jesus witnesses to the personality of each distinction in the Godhead, and
    sheds light on the relations between them.
    While the Holy Spirit is shown as distinctly personal in the gospels' [cf Mk 3:22-30; Lk 12:12; Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-15], it is the events at Pentecost that brought the personality of the Holy Spirit into greater prominence for the early Christians, and also shed greater light on to the relationship with and person of the Son, [cf Acts 2:32-33; lCor 12:4-6; IPt 1:2; 2Cor 13:14]3.
    Natural progression
    What is so striking about the New Testament teaching about the Godhead is that the belief and declaration that God is both one and yet triune, took place without a struggle or controversy among the Jewish people who had held, for centuries, an uncompromising faith of one God alone. They held tenaciously and faithfully to monotheism amid an ocean of pagan polytheism which constantly threatened to engulf them. However, on entering the church, with its belief in the deity of Father, Son and Spirit, they were not conscious of any break in their ancient faith, only fulfilment. The fact that the New Testament teaching about Godhead is clearly triune and yet presented no embarrassment or challenge to Hebrew Christians emphasises how new covenant revelation harmonises entirely with the Hebrew scriptures, and how what is embryonic within them can be brought to birth painlessly in the medium of the Spirit.
    Searching questions
    As the Gospel was proclaimed by the early Christians it drew a response from people with a wide variety of religious and philosophical backgrounds. It was obvious that it would not be long before beautiful verses, like the apostolic blessing, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" [2Cor 13: 14], would be probed by searching questions:
    . what is the relationship of these three, Father, Son and Spirit to each other?
    . what is the exact nature of God's threefold revelation of himself?
    . are these characteIistics simply due to revelation or are they part of the divine essence itself?'
    It was the Greeks in particular, and surprisingly not the Jews, who were troubled by these questions. The Greek philosophic cast of mind demanded answers to these tantalising issues.
    In the search for answers the door was opened for all sorts of individual solutions to the problems. The result was that many of the attempts to resolve the questions"'proved either quite inadequate or stood in conflict with other aspects of revelation. Resolving these difficulties became yet another challenge for the church. '.
    3 the person of the Holy Spirit is discussed at much greater length in Wk 03.06.
    / I
    ~ ~

    Searching for truth
    The word 'heresy' comes from the verb 'to choose'. It is used to describe an individual or a group who 'choose' to express their belief in a manner that is different from the one followed by the main stream of the faith. The church in fact owes a great debt to heretics. It was the pressure that they, as individuals searching for ways to express the truth, brought upon the church that forced her to state her theology in such a way that truth and error could be recognised for what they were.
    The task that the 'heretics' thrust upon the church was a necessary one, but also an impossible one to fulfil perfectly. The best that credal statements could do was to attempt to deal clearly with false teaching in the light of scripture and give some fundamental pointers to the truth. The process of expressing truth in words must be both ongoing and living and always rooted back into scripture as the absolute. The creeds are historic examples of how the church attempted to express truth in the light of particular errors they faced and the limitations of language and insight they had at the time. We must also remember that as church and state became increasingly linked there were political forces at work behind the creeds.
    It is important to remember that a large proportion of 'heretics' were very saintly individuals whose sole desire was to express the truth and to promote Jesus. It was only when their solutions to difficult theological problems were seen as inadequate that the church as a whole had to reject them. There were of course always a few heretics whose intentions were far less noble because they were unprepared to accept the challenge of biblical revelation. However, it must be added that there have always been some individuals who have supported the orthodox cause for political reasons and self advancement rather than a desire for truth.
    The crisis for the church's teaching on the Godhead came in the extent to which the unity of God was stresseclto the detriment of the nature and relationship of the persons of the Godhead.
    Questions about the nature of the incarnation become inseparable from those about the nature of the Godhead as a whole. Two main heresies illustrate the extremes of the solution sought.
    Modalistic Monarchiamism
    This approach to expressing the Godhead in words stressed that it was all important to uphold the unity of God against any possibility of the idea that there might be 'three Gods'. It taught there was no distinction in 'personhood' within the Godhead. That the one divine personality had merely three 'modes of existence'.
    The most popular presenter of this idea was Sabellius [c 250 AD], and so it is often referred to as 'Sabellianism'. He held that the one God played out three roles in history, like a single actor playing out three different roles on stage, wearing a different mask/face for each role:
    . God as Father and Creator revealed in the Hebrew scriptures.
    . God as Son revealed in Jesus.
    . God as Spirit now present and worshipped in the church.
    The Godhead becomes 'an economic trinity for the purposes of revelation' not an"essential triunity'. God is one, with three aspects or 'modes' to his revelation; hence the popular name 'modalism'.. .
    This way of expressing Godhead has also been nicknamed 'Patri passionism'.If there is no real distinction whatever within the unity of Godhead then the Father suffered in the fonn of the crucified Jesus. But God does not change his nature like an actor changing their role on stage. Modalism is error in the light of scripture because it denies that the Father, Son and Spirit are eternal attributes of the divine essence4.
    4 beware speaking of water, ice and steam as a picture of Godhead without the concept of 'triple point'!

    In 318 AD, Arius, a presbyter in Alexandria quarrelled with his bishop over the person of Christ. His ideas were to split the church for half a century and nearly destroyed the orthodox faith. Arius went to the other extreme to Sabellius. He was influenced by Greek ideas which saw God as untouchable and transcendent. If this were so, he could not conceive how a true incarnation of God was possible. In stressing the unity of God Arius defined the Son and the
    Spirit as lesser subordinate beings whom the Father 'willed' into existence for the purpose of acting as his agents with the world and human society.
    Arius stressed the phrase in Colossians 1:15 'He is ... the first born of all creation'. He said that this implied that the Son was not eternal but the first created being. His famous phrase,
    'There was a time when the Son was not' summed it up succinctly. The Arian 'Christ' is neither properly God or properly human, rather a 'mean' somewhere between the two. The conscqucnces of this teaching are clear:
    . no incarnation of God is possible.
    . no revelation of God is possible.
    . no redemption is possible, Christ himself would need a mediator.
    . no worship of Christ is possible; this would be creature worship and idolatry.
    The champions of truth attacked Arius, they stressed Christ's equality with the Father [cf Jn
    - 10:30; 14:9; Rom.9:5 etc]. They only finally won the day in 381 AD when, at the Council of
    Constantinople, the church finally turned its back on Arius' views.
    Struggling with the problem
    We must remind ourselves again that Christian teaching about the Godhead does not spring for the early Fathers of the church, but from revelation and apostolic teaching based upon it. All controversies of the first four centuries of the church were attempts to express adequately the facts of Christian revelation in an age which had neither the concepts nor the language to do justice to the truth. Let us be sympathetic in our judgment of those pioneers in Christian thought. Let us also recognise the problems they faced in trying to harmonise understanding in a Christian community divided by language and therefore by concepts. Greek was used in the East and Latin was used in the West.
    Christian teaching on the Godhead became established through the work of many individuals. Peopk like Iranaeus, Origen and Tertullian were early formulators; others like Athanasius proclaimed it, and finally someone like Augustine gave it a more permanent shape. While these people were the main contributions we must not forget that many others were also involved.
    . Iranaeus [c 175-195 AD]:
    A very important intluence in early Christian thinking, summing up the thought of the second century. He saw God as one, the Father of all things, yet containing within himself from all eternity his Word and his Wisdom. In making himself known to the world these are shown as the Son and the Spirit. They are the 'hands', or 'vehicles' or 'forms', of his self-revelation. For all their limitations Iranaeus' ideas were moving in the right direction.
    11 Origen [c 185-254]: ...
    One of the greatest thinkers of the early church, Origen made important contributions to this subject as to so many others:
    . he stressed the 'subordination' of Christ [logos] to the Father, based on John 14:28, 'The Father is greater than I'.

    . he stressed the 'eternal generation of the Son'; that the Son was not a created being but existed from all eternity with the Father. God is 'eternally Father' so the Son must be 'eternally being begotten'. The Son is subordinate to the Father because he derives his reality from him.
    11 Tertullian [e 160-220 AD]:
    His contribution is important because he provided the terms which since his time been regarded as the orthodox expression of the doctrine of the Godhead in Western Christianity:
    . he coined the word 'Trinity' [Lat 'trinatus'] by which the doctrine has become known.
    . he defined Godhead as being: 'one substance' [Lat 'substantia'] in 'three persons' [Lat 'personae'].
    The word 'substantia' had the sense of 'essence' or 'being' not the 'material' sense which the word 'substance' has today. The word 'personae' had the sense of a part played in social life, a party in a joint legal suit. The social function of an individual. The word did not have the sense of separate 'individual' which 'person' has today.
    Tertullian does not stumble into 'modalism' nor 'tri-theism' [three gods]. There are three centres of expression in one identical nature. He avoided emphasising unity at the expense of distinction.
    11 Athanasius [c.296-:n3 AD]:
    The orthodox position of the Christian church on the subject of the Godhead was established at the councils of Nieaea [325 AD] and Constantinople [381 AD]; the creeds that came from these councils. Atahanasius, who came from Alexandria, was one of the driving forces behind them. In fact it has been said that he, almost single handed, saved the church from pagan intellectualism, and particularly Arianism.

    Shaping a solution

    One of the many problems in framing the creeds was not simply finding the correct words with which to express the truth, but also resolving the fact that some Christian's spoke Greek while others spoke Latin, and the fact that exact parallels did not exist between the words which they wished to use. It was for this reason that, in the heat of dispute, some of the problems seemed insoluble. The eventual solution was as follows:
    ~three--personae--ypostasis [ not 'prosopon']
    one substantia homoousios

    11 Personae / Hypostasis

    . the natural equivalent to the Latin 'personae' is the Greek word 'prosopon', but this was used by the modalists, with the sense of 'face', and so it was rejected.
    . the word 'hypostasis' was chosen to parallel the Latin 'personae'; these two words stand midway between the idea of 'abstract substance' and 'concrete individual', as suggested by our English word 'person' [Heb 1:3 'hypostatsis' says Jesus is 'the very image of God's nature'].

    1'1 Substantia / Homoousios .

    . the Greek equivalent to the Latin 'substantia' was 'homoousios'; both have the non-material sense of 'essence' or 'being'.
    . the strength of 'homoousios' is its affirming that the very essence of God is the very essence of Jesus; the fact the modalists had used this non-biblical was not seen as insurmountable.
    \ \

    We must always remember that the creeds aim to provide no more than a practical base for a working faith; they do not aim to try to solve the theoretical riddles of philosophical theology.
    Following the councils of Nicaea [321 AD] and Constantinople [381 AD] much more work was done on the theology on the Godhead. Initially the concentration was upon the relationship between the Father and Son. As this question was resolved, the relationship of the Spirit to the Godhead was also resolved. In 416 AD Augustine made the classical statement on the doctrine, and it was upon that, that the credal statement 'Quicunquie Vault'[c 430 AD] was based.

    'The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God' .

    In 451 AD the Council of Chalcedon finally drew together and ratified all the orthodox ideas
    that had been accepted up to that date.
    The problem of 'person'
    Since Tretullian used the Latin 'personae' to speak of the tri-distinctions within the unity of Godhead, English speaking people have automatically transliterated this into the word 'person', which we have already indicated above is too concrete a concept to be really adequate. In searching for adequate communication the following must be carefully considered:
    . the essential being of God is a single unity; but within his being there are three 'persons', but not three separate and distinct individuals.
    . the modern word 'person' is quite inadequate in describing Godhead; nor does it convey the ideas implied by the early Chlistians.
    . we use words rrom the realm of 'personality' because it is the highest category of human experience we know, but these words all imply 'individuality' and 'limitation'.
    . we know very little about 'personality'; in fact true personality is only to be seen in God who
    is unlimited by heredity and environment ~..
    . it is significant that Jesus always used the homely titles of Father, Son, Spirit, and never resorted to technical terms.
    . we have no English word that describes 'distinction' with 'difference'.
    . 'person' suggests 'tri-theism' but stripped of 'individuality' might do.
    - . 'aspect' suggests 'modalism', but stripped of 'impersonality' might do.
    . God is not three individuals, 'but personal self-distinctions within one divine essence'; while each is self conscious and self directing there is never opposition, or independence of will, reeling or action.
    . God is in himself a threefold centre of life but his life is not split into' three; he is one in
    essence, personality and will.
    The issue of 'unity'
    The use of the word 'unity' has caused many problems in discussions about Godhead:
    . if unity is seen as inclusive rather than exclusive the problem is reduced. ~
    . ir unity is measured by 'the absence of internal multiplicity' [ie 'being monolithic'], then it is a monotheism that is incompatible with Biblical revelation.
    . if unity is measured by 'the intensity of unifying power in the life of the whole' there is no problem. [cf jn 17:20-23].
    . there is di versily in the persons, characteristics and operations of the Godhead. There is some subordination in relation, but not in nature:

    The question of 'equality'

    Within the Godhead there is equality in dignity; it is unique in nature, honour and dignity:
    . 'Fatherhood' is the very essence of the first person of the Godhead from
    eternity [cfEph 3:15].
    . 'Sonship', the only begotten, is the very essence of the second person of the Godhead.
    . the Spilit above knows the depths of the nature of God [cf 1Cor 2:10-11], this puts the seal on the equality of the three.
    The Biblical revelation of the inter-relationship of Father, Son and Spirit within Godhead has been blilliantly summarised by Swete as:
    "None is a separate personality from the personal life of God ... each is an externally existing mode of the Being of God, and not a separate centre of consciousness and self determination; the one God thinking, willing and acting in one of his etemal spheres of thought, volition and activity... none is a divine individual but the indivisible Godhead subsisting and operating in one of the essential relations of his tri-personallife".
    How these things can be a mystery!

    The implications of Godhead

    Christian teaching about the Godhead unites 'activity' and 'being'; it seeks to explain the relationship of God's activity to his inner nature.
    11 The Christian teaching about God demands:
    . unity of Godhead.
    . full deity of the Son, who was 'begotten'.
    . full deity of the Spirit, who 'proceeds' from the Father and the Son. . subordination of the Son and the Spirit to the Father.
    11 The Christian teaching about God implies
    . there is a God who reveals himself to mankind.
    . there is a God who communicates with mankind.
    . there is a root and pattem for all fellowship [J n 17 :21].
    . the life of God displays variety.

    A lot to digest!!!

    Best Regards

    Mike King

    NCCPG National collection holder of Sarracenia

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