It's time to derive your worldview from the Bible

Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”

by Charles Clough
New Testament passages that speak of the full deity of Jesus Christ. God is not dependent on His creation for anything. False models for God, throughout Church history, compared to the biblical Trinitarian model. Questions and answers.
Series:Chapter 2 – The Birth of the King
Duration:1 hr 15 mins 23 secs

© Charles A. Clough 1999

Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003

Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 2: The Birth of the King

Lesson 112 – Review Incarnation (Old Testament Points to Deity of Christ), Hypostatic Union

11 Feb 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD

Questions came up after the last session about Dr. Custance’s hypothesis about Mary carrying basically immortality in the ovum, and the virgin birth making use of that potential immortality as an open door through which Christ could be incarnated. Remember I’m not teaching this as the Word of God, this is the speculations of a Christian physiologist. The reason I do mention them is because these kinds of thoughts, these hypothesis, by men who are actively studying the Word of God and who were active in their professions, in their areas of specialty, are good to interact with because they act as devices to make us go back to the Word of God and look for the details. I’ve never participated in any one of these kinds of discussions where I didn’t come out of the discussion with an even greater conviction about the literal truth of the Word of God. It forces you to observe things you maybe didn’t observe.

Basically here’s Custance’s hypothesis. His hypothesis is that when you look at the growth of a baby from conception, you have the sperm and the ovum, there’s a growth period where all the cells can produce any kind of cell; it’s just a period in the growth. And at that point, all the information for eyes, ears, nose, feet, head, are all contained in those cells. Then at a certain point in the development of this fetus, all of a sudden specialty cells begin to grow and these can no longer reproduce the whole body. They can produce components of the body, but they can’t produce the whole body. Yet there are reserve cells that can produce the whole body, so-called germ cells, as Weisman called them almost a century ago, and the stematic cells, I guess now they call them the stem cells, vocabulary changes, but that’s the idea.

What Custance is fixed on is if you take Eve, Adam calling his wife isha, which is the Hebrew word for woman, and he renames her from isha to Chavvah, to the woman of life, that’s what Eve means, life. If she’s the mother of all living, and you couple that with the next statement in Genesis 3, after the fall, when God prophesies that the seed, translated from the Hebrew into Greek as the sperm of the woman will defeat the sperm of Satan, the seed. It’s just odd language, and it’s not there because it’s sloppy. It’s there because human vocabulary is struggling with something going on; the way God’s designed it.

Custance furthermore argues that if you look at the sperm and the ovum they have opposite characteristics. The ovum is there from birth and never is increased. Sperm are made all through a man’s life. The ovum can be induced to self-replicate; sperm can’t. So there’s more potential on the female side than on the male side. Custance argues in his book, as I said, the book is 400 pages long, what he’s trying to do is speculate creatively on these passages of Scripture and stop this business of reading through the Bible and take this as myth or some other thing. It’s more than that, that’s just a naïve approach to Scripture. We want to encourage people to try to ask good solid questions of the text of Scripture.

Tonight we’re going to go back to our subject, which is Christology; we’re looking at the birth of the King, which is bringing into history the God-man. We’ve looked at the biblical data that the church had to deal with in its first four or five centuries of existence. Out of that came this doctrine called the doctrine of the hypostatic union, i.e., the doctrine that Jesus Christ is true humanity coupled with undiminished deity united without confusion in one person forever. That doctrine is the center, is the core, of the whole New Testament revelation. If that goes, everything goes with it. So it’s essential that we understand the doctrine of the hypostatic union because we’re working with four things, the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. We’ve tried to show the approach that it’s not that God’s revelation is insufficient or inadequate for man.

The problem is, this side of the fall, men essentially reveal their autonomous desire for that tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that external authority other than God, and we want to be free of a God with whom we have ultimate accountability. The agenda is just that simple; in the raw, basic, bottom line that’s what’s going on. That’s why in John 3 it says the light came into the world and men loved darkness rather than light. They don’t come to the light unless they’re deeply reproved. So we’re studying how men respond to Christ and in particular how they reject Him, or how they interact with Him.

We’ve looked at the Old Testament data leading up to Christ. We said there are three categories of data. One category was that there are two streams of revelation in the Old Testament. One stream looks forward to a time when God will dwell with men; this is the first part of category one, God with men, that’s the Immanuel theme, that’s I am the One who is with you theme. There’s that desire through the whole Old Testament that one day God will be reunited with men as He originally was in the Garden of Eden. This is not something new; this is going back to what was old. Then we have the second theme, the fact that there is an ideal human ruler, or human king. There will be a human king who will lead men, mankind.

We said when you get into certain passages of the Old Testament, these streams seem to converge. They don’t actually converge in the Old Testament, but they seem to. Psalm 110, “The LORD said to my Lord,” David speaking. Who’s the Lord of David? “The LORD said to my Lord, sit at my right hand,” so something’s already happened there because when David is writing this, he’s the king. Who’s over the king? Nobody is over the king. So who’s the Lord of David, who is this mysterious person? There are two people, “The LORD” talking to “my Lord.” So there’s a sense in which David is king but he’s not the ideal king, there’s somebody coming after him. So these two streams seem to converge, but they don’t quite converge.

The second category of evidences for the deity of Christ is the fact that Old Testament quotes using God’s name, Yahweh, are replaced in the New Testament with Jesus. Therefore, if you have a direct substitution of Jeshua in passages where in the Old Testament it’s Jehovah or Yahweh, what could that be other than a claim tantamount to identifying Jesus Christ with Yahweh? Keep in mind we’re not talking about Greeks and pagans here, we’re talking about Jews, monotheistic Jews, and monotheists in particular who had a very clear Creator/creature idea. How, writing in a Jewish community, in Hebrew language, talking to people who very well know the Creator/ creature distinction, and you’re substituting Jesus name for Yahweh’s name, how else can you declare the deity of Christ?

There’s a third category of truth and that is where you have God roles, such as creation, saving, forgiving, and in the New Testament that is replaced with Christ, Christ acts in God’s roles. One of the most blatant examples of this is when Jesus Christ turns to people and He says I forgive you of your sin. Come on, that’s not a priest, what a priest does is he pronounces that your sins are forgiven, different language; he is commissioned by God to announce forgiveness for sin, but that’s not what Jesus did. Jesus didn’t use the vocabulary of a priest. Jesus had this audacious statement, “I forgive you.” You sinned against God, “I forgive you.” Who can forgive a sin against God except God, or a blasphemer? So this puts Jesus in a position where either He’s ultimately blaspheming, or He is clearly God doing His work. That gets us through the biblical data. On page 34 you have the table which shows you where those substitutions are.

Then we go to page 35 and if you open your Bible to Titus 2:13, we wound up by citing five passages in the New Testament that speak of the full deity of Jesus Christ. We have John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That declares the word, the logos to be God. I understand the Jehovah’s Witnesses have an attempt to end run that verse. We’ll get to that when we get to Arianism. There are these verses and you need to know these. John 1:1 is a critical text.

Titus 2:13 is a critical text, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” The rule in the Greek is called the Granville Sharp rule, which says when you have a person, and you have two nouns referring to a person connected by kai, which is “and,” and you have an adjective in front of that expression, “the great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,” that puts them together; they speak of the same person. What this is is an article, plus an adjective, plus a noun, plus kai, plus a noun; that refers to one person, it’s a construction. So Titus 2:13 is a very strong text to prove the full and complete deity of Jesus Christ, and that it was recognized and written about by Paul very early in church history. It’s not something that happened later on when people just kind of deified this human carpenter.

1 John 5:20 is the other one. These are the three most powerful ones. “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” You could say isn’t that a divine being? What does the next verse say? [v. 21, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”] In a passage that’s telling you to avoid idols, you don’t promiscu­ously talk about calling something God unless the object that you’re calling God is God. So 1 John 5:20 is a third very powerful reference.

There are two other verses in the New Testament that are powerful, but you kind of have to be careful of the text and the context because there are ways of messing with it. Turn to Hebrews 1:8, this is a citation out of the Old Testament. “But of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.” That’s addressed to and about the Son, it’s clearly calling the Son God. “Thy throne O God,” it’s addressed to God, but the text that introduces the Old Testament quote by the author of Hebrews says “But of the Son He says….” “Concerning the Son He says ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.’” Why this verse isn’t as powerful as the others is because somebody can say that it’s just talking about the throne of the human king, it’s God’s throne but it’s the human king on the throne. To deal with that then you have to get back into the monarchy, etc. there’s more argument involved in that one.

Romans 9:5 is the fifth one. Keep in mind all the previous material that we’ve covered. It’s not that these five verses are the only places. I just refer to these five verses because they’re the most explicit. What do you do with a verse like this? “whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever, Amen.” The problem with this, like with Hebrews, is the punctuation of the sentence, because you could say that “God blessed forever” is kind of an ejaculative thank you, “God blessed forever.” Or you could read it as the “God blessed forever” is synonymous with the rest of the clause. So here it is again: John 1:1; Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20; Romans 9:5 and Hebrews 1:8.

We’re going to embark on some very deep stuff. This is going to challenge our ability to think because it gets right into the center of the Godhead. We’re going to go through this and it will take many weeks. Be patient, because maybe it will sharpen your appreciation of the God whom you worship, because we’re going to take a tour of some 400 years of church history, and show you the blind alleys that godly people tried in their thinking about Jesus Christ, and some of the not-so-godly people. The church struggled and struggled and struggled, and what I get so tired of hearing when you get in a debate or a discussion is this weak-kneed response that goes like this: the New Testament in its purity back then didn’t deify Jesus, that’s just church speculation over the centuries, you know myth gets encrusted upon the truth, so we’ve got truth mixed together with myth, we’ve got to pull off all the myth and when you pull off all the myth you wind up with this little lowly Jewish carpenter. It’s like the church was so stupid, these guys are so brilliant now, PhDs today really know a lot more about Jesus, I mean, Jesus didn’t have a PhD, how did He make it. Paul didn’t have one; he probably had the equivalent of one. Matthew didn’t, the twelve apostles, and none of them have PhDs, how did God ever start the church? That’s why He started it, that’s how He could start it; He didn’t have them around to mess things up.

What we’re talking about here is that when we go agonizingly through this convoluted hallway and look at all the doors, just visualize yourself walking down a hallway and you open one door, and open another one, you want to see what’s in the room. That’s what we’re going to do. When we get done I hope to convince you that the only model that we can have in our minds of God is the Trinity. The church was forced into the doctrine of the Trinity by trying to resolve the data about the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not the other way around. The cultist will come to your door, they will send you literature, you’ll get this in the college classroom, that somewhere the church got this out of the Greek milieu. If there’s any place they didn’t get it it was in the Greek worldview, because the Greek worldview was pagan. The Greeks didn’t have a concept of the Creator/creature distinction. Everybody knows that. What’s this business about getting the Trinity out of the Greek culture?

The doctrine of the Trinity was reluctantly, reluctantly created by the church to deal with this problem that we’re working with. They came to it because they were forced to come to it; they tried every other answer, and all the other answers don’t fit what we hear about when the light came into the world. It doesn’t picture these passages. On page 35 we’re embarking on the formulation of the doctrine. It will be a good exercise for some of you who have never been involved in church history, because what it will do for you, it will get you out of this arrogant spirit that we sometimes get ourselves into as evangelicals, that the Holy Spirit only taught our particular generation, everybody was stupid until we came along, and we are just God’s gift to the church, nobody had it straight before we walked around, and after we’re gone nobody will get it straight. When we learn about church history we realize that there were other people that the Holy Spirit did teach, believe it or not! And those people did a lot of very fine work and this doctrine of Jesus Christ was one of the finest pieces or work the church has ever done. And it was all done before we had Sunday Schools, church growth movements, TV, how did they ever get it done.

Look at the bottom paragraph on page 35. I’m going to have to rely on the notes, we’ll get to the passages, but I want you to follow with the notes because this is about history, and I had to compile hundreds of pages of history writing into these paragraphs.

“The church took nearly six hundred years to summarize all the Scriptural data about Christ into a consistent doctrinal statement. The story of that struggle will now be briefly surveyed from the perspective of four great conclusions that were eventually reached concerning the nature of Christ. To attain these conclusions,” this is my key sentence, “to attain these conclusions the early Christians discarded one false concept of God after another in their search to explain all the New Testament revelation in a logically consistent manner.” A key sentence! The church tried many different ideas about God and it wouldn’t work. The stuff the cultists bring to your front door is garbage, it’s stuff that has been tried 150 times before and every time people try it, it doesn’t work. You’d think Satan would get a little tired of doing this. It’s the same garbage. “To argue, as liberals and cultists do, that the Trinity was ‘imported’ from Greek philosophy by the early church is quite contrary to historical fact. On the contrary, the Trinity was an original concept coming from within the church only after all the ‘imported’ concepts of God from outside culture had failed to correlate with New Testament revelation.”

On page 36, here’s the first struggle point. Here’s the first problem, the first big argument that the church had, the first plank in the platform of the hypostatic union doctrine. Here’s the deal: is Christ a divine person, distinct from the Father, or not? The first point is, here’s the Father, here’s the Son. Are they the same person? Are these two masks worn by the same God, or can we explain the divergence between them as one is God and one is less than God. So the first thing we’re struggling with is this problem: how to differentiate the Father from the Son. We all go through this. This is not theory, think about when you pray. Do I pray to the Father or do I pray to the Son? Most prayers in the Bible are to the Father. The only prayers that you ever see in the Bible to the Son is when the Son is physically showing Himself to people. All the other prayers in the Bible are to the Father. Why is that? We want to look at this.

“The first erroneous attempt to describe Christ doctrinally was known as Monarchianism.” Look at the chart. Those are the heresies; we’re going to go through them one by one. Look at the first two, the first two rows on that chart. Both of them involve what is called Monarchianism. Let me define that word. The stem in that word is Monarch. What Monarchianism is is a monarch model of God, that is, people are thinking in their head when they think of God of a solitary King over all. Solitary! The key word in Monarchianism is “solitary.” The Trinity isn’t solitary.

Think about Scripture. Before God created the world, what does Jesus say that the Father did for Him? He loved Me before the foundation of the world. So before creation was there a personal relationship between the Father and the Son? Yes there was. If God can have a personal relationship within Himself, how does that make Him independent and self-contained versus coming over here and seeing God as a solitary being? What is absent from His existence before creation if He is a solitary person? Another person. So if I’m Islamic, or I am a late Judaism, and I have a solitary God, is a solitary God personally complete before creation? Ah, interesting, and it’s interesting that Islam’s divine attribute of love is missing. Allah has many attributes; love is not one of them. Do you see why? What’s the object of his love? If you make his love dependent on creation, what have you done to the Creator? You’ve made him dependent on the creation.

It’s precisely the Trinitarian nature of God that permits His social life, His personal life, to exist independent of His creation. A very important point. If you screw this up, you’re going to make God dependent on His own creation. Or, you’re going to make God a non-person, in His essence He is not personal at all, He’s just a force. You’ve got to do one or the other, but it’s precisely this multiplicity of persons in God that keeps Him totally self-contained, self-sufficient, such that He never had to create the universe if He didn’t want to. But if you don’t have multiplicity within God, He has to create the universe to have somebody around. God doesn’t need us, He doesn’t need angels. So it’s very important that we understand that God is self-contained, independent, and He doesn’t have to do anything outside of Himself, He’s perfectly content with Himself. He doesn’t need any object for His love because He already has objects for His love within Himself. Jesus says that the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world. They talked one to another; the Trinity communed one to another. They don’t need us. So the Trinitarian nature is very important.

Modal Monarchianism says solitary person; that’s the doctrine here. This was the presupposition of these two arguments. I hope another thing we learn is that this is going to show what presup­positional thinking is all about, and how important it is to examine your presuppositions; these poor people didn’t even realize that they were presupposing this. That’s what’s so nasty about presuppositions, you catch them like viruses and you don’t even know they’re there. You say, “Why do I keep thinking this way?” You’ve got to get deep down, and all of a sudden you say oh, that’s why I’m thinking this way, deep down in my inner program I’ve got this wrong set of rules. So these guys, when they worked on this doctrine, they realized after a while the church came to this awareness, something’s wrong here, we keep going into the wrong room as we walk down this hallway. So the room, we’ll call it Monarchianism, that’s the presupposition that had to be exposed for what it was. It took a long time and a lot of arguments and a lot of dissatisfaction before Christians started to deal with the tough issue: I can’t worship Jesus Christ this way, there’s something wrong with this, the Spirit just doesn’t bear witness that this is true.

On page 36 let’s go through what happened. “One version of Monarchianism, known as Modal Monarchianism, held that all three persons—Father, Son, and Spirit—were not really separate persons but only appearances of masks that the solitary God put on Himself to meet man.” So when God wants to meet man in a certain role, He puts on the Father image; when He wants to meet man in another role He puts on the Son image; when He wants to meet man to do something else He puts on the Spirit image. It’s the same person appearing under three masks. Anybody immediately see a problem with that? If these are masks that God puts on, who’s the real God? If these are masks, they’re not the real revelation of who He is. So now you start to make God unknowable.

The Father and Son “were not really separate persons but only appearances of masks that the solitary God put on Himself to meet man. Sabellius, for example,” this is another word for Modal Monarchianism, for those church history buffs, Sabellianism. “Sabellius, for example, taught that ‘He himself is the Father; he himself is the Son; he himself is the Spirit—as I say there are three names in one object….’ God, therefore, had three labels, none of which expressed what God was really like. Man saw Him in one situation as the Father, in another situation as the Son, and so forth; but man never saw Him as He really is. Modal Monarchianism tried to maintain the truth of monotheism,” it was good that way, it tried to protect monotheism, “but it used a defective monotheist ‘model’ and thus failed to fit the obvious New Testament data that speak of the Father and the Son as two distinct persons.”

 “As one instance, consider Jesus’ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.” Who is He praying to? “Was He talking to Himself in sort of make-believe monologue put on for” the benefit of His disciples, who by the way were sleeping as He was praying, “put on for man’s benefit? Modal Monarchianism can’t escape this conclusion, whether in its ancient form or in a modern form” modern back in the 70’s when they originally wrote this, “(like the Local Church Movement of Witness Lee—see Table 2).” I don’t even know if that’s around any more, but that was going for a while, these guys were related to Watchman Nee and somehow incurred a lot of his followers, and he held to Modal Monarchianism, it’s the same old stuff. “New Testament data about these two distinct persons had to be taken seriously as telling man something real concerning the nature of God.” [Following chart referred to often in coming lessons as “the chart on page 37.”]

Ancient Heresy Title

Modern Counterpart


Modal Monarchianism

Local Church of Witness Lee

Solitary monotheism: three persons only masks of appearance.

Dynamic Monarchianism

Unitarianism; old liberal theology; Later Judaism; Islam

Solitary monotheism: only the Father is God


Jehovah’s Witnesses

Pure ideal called “God” that can only communicate with non-ideal world through an intermediary being: Son less in essence than the Father


Extreme Calvinism

Only the Pure Ideal called “God” is real: physical history, including Christ’s humanity, not “real” existence; only an allusion



God limited by His creation: Son’s divine nature only loosely associated with his human nature


Oriental claims of “incarnations” of Krishna; modern liberal/pagan theology

God and Creation are basically one (Monoism): Son’s two natures mixed together into one nature

Table 2. Six ancient Christological heresies with their modern counterparts listed. Unbiblical presuppositions about God’s being are underlined.

So Modal Monarchianism, which was the first attempt at this thing, that one failed, the Modal view. It quickly got refuted by the fact that the New Testament data clearly shows the Lord Jesus talking to the Father and the Father talking to the Son.

The next one, “When a second version of Monarchianism arose, it came to be known as ‘Dynamic Monarchianism.’” Same model deep underneath, don’t lose the forest for the trees, deep down these guys hold the same idea, God is a solitary person, and if He’s a solitary person He can’t be the Father and the Son. But what Dynamic Monarchianism did is it made the Father God, and that made Christ what? If the Father is God and there are two distinct people, this guy can’t be God. So they began to attack and undercut the deity of Christ. Watch how they did it.

“This new version took the New Testament distinction between the Father and Son seriously, but it failed to correct the same faulty monotheism of Modal Monarchianism and thus incorrectly described Christ. Since God was one in person, the Dynamic Monarchians reasoned, both the Father and the Son could not be this one person. They made the Father the real God, leaving the Son as a mere human vessel of an impersonal divine power. The Dynamic Monarchian Theodotus taught that Jesus, born of a virgin,” watch this now, here’s what they did, they accepted the virgin birth, “was a true man, into whom at His baptism a divine power called Christ entered.” See what they did, they took the baptism of Christ and they made that the point at which this infusion of divine power came upon Him, but He was basically no more than a man. “Although this version of Monarchianism better explained the New Testament data concerning the Father-Son distinction, it left unexplained the other New Testament data affirming Christ’s deity, His role in salvation, and His authority to reveal directly God’s Word.”

“Interestingly, this second version of Monarchianism corresponds to modern liberal ideas about Jesus.” I quote the Roman Catholic theologian here because at this point Protestants and Catholics are agreed. This is one area where Rome and Geneva both got together; we both defend the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ. “The renowned Roman Catholic Christologist, Karl Adam, has commented: ‘Modern liberal assessments of Jesus as the great, unique, but purely human means of divine revelation are remarkably close to this heretical dynamism….’” We read Harry Emerson Fosdick’s quote; what did he call Jesus? The Master. Any Dynamic Monarchianism could have called Him the Master. What you want to see is that there are not many ideas in the world, they keep repeating, it’s the same old garbage, it just revisits, recycled garbage. All you have to do is go through the first cycles, don’t go through eight cycles of it, go through one, get it all over with.

“These two Monarchian, erroneous attempts to describe Christ, therefore, failed, because of their common starting assumption of a personal, solitary monotheistic God.” That was their problem; that was why they had problems trying to explain the New Testament data, they couldn’t get it together because they had a wrong presupposition about the very nature of God Himself.

Now we’re going to move on to the third one. This is the most famous of all, Arianism. Look at the chart, today Jehovah’s Witnesses are just another example of Arianism; it’s about the sixth recycle of this heresy. Arianism started out with something else. Notice what they did. Look on the right column. Here’s where the Greeks came in, if you want to say somebody imported something into the church, here’s an import. The Greeks held to the ideal world, Plato an illustration of what they’re talking about. Try to draw a perfect triangle. In plain geometry you get the compass and you work it out, that’s rules how to create a triangle on a piece of paper. Can you ever create a perfect triangle on a piece of paper? No, because you’ve got the graphite from your pencil, it doesn’t always go in a straight line, the paper is crooked, if you take the finest drawing of a triangle and look at it under a magnifying glass it looks horrible. If you try to sketch a triangle it looks horrible. So can you ever create a perfect triangle? But we all know what a triangle is. We all know when it’s not a triangle, but try to make a real triangle. You just can’t ever do it. So here’s what the Greeks said: a real triangle doesn’t exist in the physical world, it only exists in the unseen mental world. That was the world of the ideal.

So because they wanted to create this ideal, they had to have the ideal because they realized if you don’t have an ideal where do your categories go, where does your logic go? You’ve got to have an absolute. So they conceived of an absolute as a principle, like the ideal triangle, like the ideal circle. There was this realm of ideal ideas. That was what the Greeks fastened on because they truly recognized some­thing; if you don’t have something like that you’re in trouble real fast. This is what happens in our society today. We don’t have any concept of what right and wrong is. And Plato would have agreed. We disagree with Plato on the [can’t understand word/s], but he would have agreed with us, you cannot have a society of unified nature without an ideal over it to which everybody is committed. Otherwise you just have [can’t understand word/s] moving against each other, political parties struggling with one another, but you don’t have any common ground.

So they were right in seeing a need for this thing. The problem they saw was that in this world you don’t ever have an ideal, you can’t get there. So they separated the ideal from this world. On the right column under Arianism, the “Pure ideal,” now here’s what happened, here’s the import happening, see if you catch it. They took this Greek bifurcation between the ideal and this world and it looked so great, it seemed to explain things so nicely, and they said gee, this is a great tool for studying the Bible. So they started doing this, they moved over here and said now we’re going to re-label it. So they put a Christian vocabulary on it. They said let’s do away with this and call this God. What happens when you do something like that? This is a fatal error. What’s the content of G-o-d? It’s this pre-understanding of the Greeks; in other words, all they have done is re-label their own thought pattern by attaching G-o-d to it. What has happened to the content of the meaning of the word “God?” It’s no longer biblical, you can talk God but the content of the object of the word “God” now is this ideal world that you’ve gotten from Greek philosophers. It’s not the biblical God.

So they misidentified God and once they did that they were in trouble again, because where did Jesus walk and talk? In this world or the ideal world? This world. Oh-oh, now if I’m a Greek and I don’t believe that you can ever get the ideal in this world, what happens to the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ? Can he be God? He can’t be God; He could be close to God. There are better triangles and then there are crude triangles, and He was a pretty good triangle, but He wasn’t the ideal triangle because the ideal triangle doesn’t exist in this world. So see what happens, here we go, we thought we had this nice cool idea and it seemed to solve everything, we imported its warped theology, baptized it with a Christian vocabulary, and then like a landmine we walk on it and it blows up and blows our legs off. The church has done this again and again. You can’t be too picky-uny about importing this crud in. That’s why Paul said “Beware of” what in Colossians 2:8, “Beware of philosophy and vain deceit.” Paul knew this. He had studied under the top people of his day. Paul knew Aristotle, Paul probably read it when he was eleven, he didn’t have TV, had to have something else to do. He could read Plato and Aristotle when he was a kid. He’s clued in to this kind of thing.

Now we come on page 37 to Arianism. The question now, whereas before it was number one, is the Father distinct from the Son, now we come to the second issue. We know the Father is distinct from the Son, we’ve solved that, but what we want to do now is how and in what way is the Son subordinate to the Father. Clearly Jesus obeys the Father. The New Testament says everything the Father says I do.

Now that we’ve distinguished the two, how are we going to handle this subordination without making the subordination an inferiority? By the way, watch carefully what’s happening here, because when we get done with this you’re going say it’s all heavy theory. We’re going to show you something. Modern feminism is dealing with this problem. There’s a biblical role of women, in the Scripture they’re supposed to be subordinate, etc. etc. is taken to be as affront because it makes women less than men in essence. If that argument holds, let’s move that argument over to the Father and Son and see what happens. If subordination of the Son to the Father means subordination of essence, like they’re saying, then Jesus can’t be fully God.

So the Trinity, they can’t work the Trinity, and I was reminded of this back many years ago when feminism first came out, I wanted to read what a Christian feminist had to say. I forgot who the lady was, a very famous lady, evangelical woman who had written this book, and I quickly looked at the index, because I wanted to see where is this lady going to deal with the Trinity, I want to se because I know she’s going to have a problem and I want to see how she handles it. Sure enough, I check the index and she’s got a reference to the Trinity. Would you believe… she’s having a problem with the doctrine of the Trinity; of course she is, because she’s got the concept of subordination to be one always of essence, and she was saying I’m really struggling with this doctrine, we’ve got to rethink this one. Yea, sure, it’s only the hub of the Christian faith, go ahead, rethink it, why don’t you shake up the foundations too. It’s all interconnected; this is not theory.

Let’s look at some of these passages, because ultimately the doctrine has to fit the text. You can come up with all kinds of doctrine, but does it fit what God has told us in His Word. [blank spot: notes say, “Christ’s Subordination to the Father is Note One of Essence. New Testament references such as Matthew 19:17; Mark 13:21; Luke 18:19; John 14:28; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:28, as well as Paul’s use of the term God (theos)] …when he talks about the Father, and kurios, or Lord when he talks about the Son.” Why does he use different titles? Why doesn’t he use “God” for both? We’ve just showed some passages, Titus 2:13 was one of them where he does that, but generally he doesn’t. That pattern “argues for some sort of subordination of the Son to the Father. Other New Testament data discussed earlier in this chapter, however, equally demands full deity for the Son.” Remember, we saw dual streams of revelation.

On page 38 we want to look at Arianism because this was a very, very serious, serious heresy n church history. “The Arian heresy, the most popular answer to the dilemma, dominated the church for a limited period.” It actually was the majority view, by the way. The Arians won the day in America. If you had taken a vote, Arians would have won. “Arians taught that Christ’s subordination to the Father was a subordination of essence. Christ was made of like substance (Greek: homoiousion) as the Father but not the same substance (homoousion) as the Father.” Notice these two Greek words; what do you notice in those two Greek words that’s different? They look almost alike except for one letter, the little letter “i”. In the Greek that’s called an iota. Did you ever heat the expression, it doesn’t matter one iota. Do you know where that came from? The Arian controversy. Now you see these things that have slipped into our language. What did we say when we talked about the Dark Ages? We all use the term Dark Ages. Who invented that term? The liberals, that was the enlightenment people, the “enlightenment” people, there was no light on in the Middle Ages, they only preached the gospel, that’s all, Dark Ages. And we have the “enlightenment” when we go back to Aristotle and all the pagans, we call that an enlighten­ment, that’s an advance. We’ve learned this in our history courses.

Here’s another jewel, “it doesn’t matter one iota.” Do you know who started that? It was Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and he had some little snotty footnote in this history book, he says ha-ha, the Christians fighting about one iota. So that expression, “It doesn’t matter one iota” is absolutely wrong. A lot does matter on one iota, and we’re going to see, one iota makes a big difference here, it’s whether Jesus is God or not. So let’s look. Follow the discussion.

“The Arians, however, like the Monarchians before them, had imported an outside, unbiblical idea of God into the discussion. They relied upon Platonism in which ‘God’ was the name for pure essence, above and separate from the world. In Platonic tradition this one ‘God’ could communi­cate with the world only through some intermediary being, a half-god/half-man, called the logos (unfortunately, the very word used in John 1 to describe Christ). When Arians borrowed this Platonic concept of God” underline that, notice who’s doing the borrowing and who’s doing the importing. It’s not the orthodox Christians that are doing it, it’s the heresies that are doing it, it’s precisely opposite of what you learn in history class. It’s the heretics that are importing this stuff into the church. So they imported the “Platonic concept of God and used the intermediary being idea to solve the subordination dilemma,” making Jesus Christ a semi-God, semi-man, “they naturally identified Christ the Son as this intermediary being, making Him ‘divine,’ but not in the true biblical sense.”

“By ignoring the New Testament data supporting Christ’s full deity and, therefore, His role in revelation and salvation, Arians were led” now watch this. Remember I said when you import a Trojan horse at night, what comes out of the horse? Trojans. Watch what happens, the Arians imported this stuff, now watch the payback, here come the Trojans out of the horse. “Arians were led by their error into a serious problem. They so separated God the Father in the Ideal world from God the Son” by the way, think how close this comes in our thought patterns, haven’t you had this thought many times in your Christian life, well, God really isn’t here, He doesn’t walk around the crud I walk around in, it’s very nice to have these promises, but boy He isn’t here to see this mess. See how easy it is to slip into this stuff. “They so separated God the Father in the Ideal world form God the Son Who spoke in this world that neither the Son nor mankind who listened to Him could really ‘know’ God.” Now drop down to the quote.

I’m quoting the guy, this is Arius. “God Himself, then, in His own nature, is ineffable, unknowable by all men. Equal of like Himself He alone has none, or one in glory …. The Unbegun” look at this, “the Unbegun,” that means He’s the eternal one, “made the Son a beginning of things originated; and advanced Him as a Son to Himself by adoption.” What does that sound like? That God the Father created the Son. “He has nothing proper to God in substance.” Look at that one, that’s talking about the Son. The Son “has nothing proper to God in substance. For He is not equal, no, nor one in essence with Him …. God is ineffable, unknowable, to His Son.” … to HIS SON, see where they were driven, “For He is to Himself what He is, that is, unspeakable. So that nothing which is called comprehensible does the Son know to speak about; for it is impossible for Him to investigate the Father, Who is by Himself. For the Son does not know His own essence, for being Son, He really existed, at the will of the Father.” There’s so much language to carry through this stuff. This is hard stuff; you have to read this over 20 times before it clicks.

Follow with me the next paragraph. “Denial of Christ’s full deity had to lead the Arians into a morass in which God is unknowable, in which revelation about Him is only historically relative, and in which salvation is impossible from the Son. The anti-Arians,” now watch what happens, these are the guys that were the minority crowd, they had to get up and they had to argue their way out of the box, and I mean there was some stuff, because remember the Arians won, they won the vote, so the orthodox guys were the small party here. But here’s what they did to win the day. Watch their argument. This finally the church, the Holy Spirit bore witness that this was Scriptural reasoning. “The anti-Arians who insisted on the sharp Creator/creature distinction without any such ‘intermediary’ being, asked why Jesus Christ was being worshipped if He were not full deity: ‘Who said to them that, having abandoned the worship of the created universe they should proceed again to worship something created and made?’ ” Do you see the argument?

I’ve shown this 150 times. What does it all boil down to? The Creator/creature distinction. You’ve got to have that distinction. This is where the anti-Arians hung them up, they said okay guys, if you want to be so smart, if you want to make Jesus Christ less than God on the Creator/creature distinction, that makes Jesus Christ on this side, not that side; now we accuse you of blasphemy, because you’re saying that I am supposed to worship Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ can’t be the Creator, therefore He must be a creature, if He’s a creature, I’m worshiping a creature. How do you defeat that logic? What is that logic coming up in tension against? Do you feel the tension coming up? Something’s wrong here, and what is wrong is that substrata, that presupposition that came in, that “Ideal,” they mislabeled the Ideal and called it God. They didn’t inform themselves from the Scripture; they informed themselves from Plato and Aristotle.

So, here’s the argument, they kept on pressing the point. “They furthered argued that if the semi-divine Logos/Christ were not fully God, he had to be mutable.” What does mutable mean? He was changing. Like we all are, we’re in a world of flux; He changes. So here’s one of their arguments: “ ‘How can he who beholds the mutable’—the changing—‘think that he is beholding the immutable’ ”—the unchanging. In other words, how do you see God’s face looking at Jesus? If Jesus is a creature and He’s subject to this world and He’s changing all the time and I go to worship Him, I can’t be worshiping God then, can I? I’m looking at the wrong object, because you’ve turned Christ into a Creature. Now you’re making me worship a creature and telling me I can see God’s face in the creature. Impossible!

Then they had a third argument. “The anti-Arians, led by Athanasius,” there’s the hero; he was the guy that stood up and took the heat. Athanasius got up, he was a deacon in Alexandria, and his famous saying was, here’s another key sentence, “if Jesus be not God, then Christians are not saved.” Why? What’s eternal life? To know Him. If Jesus isn’t God we don’t know God. We don’t have eternal life then. See, that’s the same thing, the Jehovah Witnesses still have a problem with that. “[Karl Adams summarizes the debate:] ‘The dogmatic result of the Arian disputes could be summarized thus: Christ is not a god of secondary order …. He is God Himself …. This was the basis of the formulation ‘God-man’ …. What Christ does, thinks, utters, works, has absolute validity. [All Christianity is thereby exalted above the mere human and historical condition.]”

The next quote comes out of the Nicene Creed. Here’s the original version of the Nicene Creed, not the one that we have in the hymn book is somewhat edited, what did we notice when we looked at it? Look at the original version. Keep in mind, Athanasius is going at it with Arius and they’re fighting, they’re arguing and they’re voting in church councils and they’re maneuvering for positions, they’ve got their spin doctors out, and they’re going through all this argument. And finally the church says you know, the Spirit within us testifies that Athanasius must be right. If Jesus Christ is not God we know not God, we are not saved, so therefore they said we’ve got to go back to the Apostle’s Creed and fix it up so this doesn’t happen again. We’ve had too much church discord over this point. So to get the unity of the faith, they went back and they modified the creed. They said we’re going to rework this thing. We read it before we went through this history, now read this Nicene Creed and see if it doesn’t make sense to you.

“We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of all things visible and invisible;” why’d they put that in there? Because the intermediary beings, the invisible angels. God is the Creator of all things; what does that sentence doing to the Creator/creature distinction? Strengthening it. “We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of ALL things, visible and invisible.” That wasn’t in the Apostle’s Creed. There was a hole in there; the Arians could say oh yea, I believe in God the Father. They recited the Apostle’s Creed; the Creed didn’t filter them out. So the church made the mesh on the filter a little finer. Now we’re going to strain out the Arians. “…Creator of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, only begotten of the Father,” now look, “that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, begotten, not made, being of the same substance with the Father…. [Emphasis supplied.]” See all that vocabulary packed into that creed, we don’t even recite the creed any more in our churches. What a sad day.

“In this creed the church used every vocabulary word it could find to deny the Arian heresy that Jesus’ subordination to the Father was one of essence. The Son was of the same essence (homoousion) as the Father. He was not merely of like essence (homoiousion).” The iota did make a difference.

I hope this gives you a flavor for the fact of how to appreciate that a lot of godly men and women had to pray this thing through, had to argue this thing through, had to go back to Scripture and think this thing through until we could get it straight. Without Christ’s doctrine pure we cannot preach a pure gospel. The whole issue of salvation is contingent on Christ being who He is.

We covered a lot of stuff tonight, there are a lot of ramifications and it’s difficult material, and it is deep, because it’s God that we’re talking about here.

Question asked: Clough answers: The hypostatic union doctrine can be summarized in a set of phrases and each one of these phrases deal with one of these errors. That’s why I’m going to go through all these errors so you can see that it wasn’t just somebody [can’t understand word/s] fire and language. In many ways the guys that did the creeds were the precursors of lawyers. They’re the theological criminal lawyers, they wrote this to try to be as tight as they possibly could. You can never write a perfect creed because somebody can always, what I call rubberize it, like we’ve done the Constitution. I sometimes wish the Christian bookstore would have the first liberal edition of the Scripture, made of rubber and you could stretch it any way you wanted.

The doctrine of the hypostatic union is that Jesus Christ is undiminished deity, because what they were doing, the Arians, they were trying to diminish the deity, undiminished deity and true humanity, the next heresy is Docetism, and Docetism held that Jesus’ humanity was a fantasy, it was just a phantom thing, it was an appearance, He wasn’t really there physically. They elevated Him so much that they lost the humanity. Now we don’t have any atonement. So He is undimin­ished deity, He is true humanity, then there’s another heresy coming up where His deity and His humanity got mixed together, and now you have this half-breed created creature kind of thing.

So it is undiminished deity and true humanity united in one person without confusion, and that “without confusion” is to knock off another heresy that came up where they were mixing them together. Undiminished deity and true humanity united in one person without mixture. Now how do you get these two, it’s hard, you can’t logically synthesize all this to your own satisfaction, but you have to have all these elements because if you don’t have the elements then you go drifting off into the wild blue. So you have to have undiminished deity, true humanity, united in one person, without mixture, forever. So it’s not a temporary thing during the period of the incarnation on earth, and then somehow He loses His humanity when He rises from the dead and ascends into heaven. He has His human body today, bones, fingernails, etc. It is united forever.

So every one of those phrases is a hard fought for phrase, and is very, very important to have. I hope that as we go through this, another thing, if you haven’t ever been exposed to this, that this will help you realize that theology is like a sweater, and you start untangling something and it quickly unravels in strange places. You’d never think, for example, that Docetism, by denying the full humanity of Christ all of a sudden does away with the cross, then the whole doctrine of salvation goes out the window. You’re dealing here with a fundamental thing and you tamper with the foundation and the whole building rocks. That’s why it was good that the church spent 400-500 years getting it straight. Thankfully we haven’t had to rethink this. If you look at that chart, the liberals are trying to redo it, because all they’re doing is revisiting Dynamic Monarch­ianism all over again, that’s all it is, the same thing, and they’ve got the same problem, an unknowable God. That’s why they give book reviews on Sunday morning instead of the Bible, because they haven’t got anything else to do. You can’t talk about God, we don’t know Him, all we know is the Bible isn’t right, we know that for sure.

Question asked: Clough replies: The story of Islam, I’m not intimately familiar with all the details myself, but true Muslims don’t deify Mohammed. They keep him human. There are all kinds of problems in the origin of Islam. One story that I want to check out before I get into a part of the series is the strange fact that Allah, the name “Allah” is apparently associated with a lunar deity in the time of Mohammed. And the theory is that what you have here is a monotheistic warping of an original pagan god. And a strange convolution, Mohammed knew a lot of Jews and he knew Christians, and he wasn’t out in the desert eating sand, this guy knew a lot of stuff, he had intercourse with people who really knew. He was exposed to a lot. When you have Allah, apparently a lunar deity by derivation, it is interesting, what is the emblem of Islam? The crescent. Think about it. They don’t have a red cross; what is their [can’t understand word] agency. The red crescent. You look on Islamic country’s flags and what do you see? The crescent. So it’s interesting.

The reason why I mention this is simply because when I was in Dallas I was talking to Dave Hunt, you’ve probably heard of his books, very anti-Roman Catholic, but Dave was talking to me and said it’s kind of interesting that the lunar effect, the lunar deity was also the deity of Babylon, and if that’s so, it’s a short step to think about a synthesis somehow whereby perhaps Islam is preparing the way for the beast by emanating from the Middle East, being embedded in some sort of lunar deity worship, and being quite aggressive. I’m not sure I buy that, I’m not refuting Dave, I’m just not well-read enough to say.

But here’s the point that I get from the people who are experienced with Islam. I went to seminary with a guy who’s president of a mission to Islam, he lives in Egypt, and you talk about a mission field that’s hard to roll, you talk about trying to be a missionary to Islam, holy mackerel. He says that it’s very clear that Islam has two characteristics, that if you live in an Islamic country you’ll see. One is an extreme authority, a total destruction of secularism. He says every day on the street people will talk about Allah this or Allah that, they don’t conceive of society in a secular tone like the western person. In that they’re more biblical actually, because they haven’t made that fatal neutrality argument. There’s no neutrality in Islam.

The other thing, however, with Islam that is odd, he says is that’s very, and he doesn’t mean this in the sense that the Islamic people are necessarily unloving ethically, because the wives love their husbands, the husbands love their wives, but in the theology of Islam there is very little by way of an absolute love and compassion. He believes, and I believe, that that is the result of the fact that they don’t have a Trinity, that their god finally in the last analysis has to create something outside of himself to have an object for his love, and that prior to creation that was not his essence; his essence wasn’t, so to speak, active that way. That carries over, because of the lack of love, in the god himself, into the redemptive problem.

Now we have a situation where in Islam you work, it’s a salvation by works scheme, your good works out [can’t understand word] your bad works. Well, if you’re going to be saved by works, then what does that do to God’s grace? There is no grace if it’s full of works, Paul tells us this. Well if there’s no grace, then that in turn undercuts the whole attribute of love, because grace in Christian theology is an emanation of God’s love after the fall in the presence of sin. Grace is love in a sinful world. So there’s nothing like that in Islam. This is why when you see the fierceness of Islam, the holy war nature, the judgmental part of it—ideas have consequences and bad ideas have bad consequences. And you can’t fight the fruit without dealing with the root. And he says that’s the problem. He says in his experience he has never, ever won a Muslim to Christ by arguing with him. What stimulates the Muslims, makes them question their own faith, is the presence of grace in the lives of Christians. They see that and it shocks them. It shocks them because it’s something unknown in their whole system. So it becomes a weapon actually, a weapon with them. That’s the Islam story as far as I can push it right now.

We’ll meet next week. Keep working through these things and I’ll think you see that history repeats itself, there’s only four or five basic ideas that keep coming up in new form, but same person, different coat, different hat but it’s the same person.