Lecture 3 – The Debate over the Nature of Christ (John Karanja)

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  1. Recognize the two Greek intellectual assumptions shared by theologians in the debate over Christ’s deity.(Sect. 14.1 introduction)
    • To change a being is to change it for the better or for the worse; deity is perfect; therefore,deity cannot change (i.e., immutability of God).

    • The nature of God was that of absolute static perfection, which includes the inability to sufferor be emotionally affected (i.e., apatheia: impassibility of God).
  2. Recognize which church council arose concerning Alexander’s and Arius’s debate over the deity of Christ. (Sect.14 & 14.1.4)
    Council of Nicaea
  3. Recognize the issues in question and match Alexander with his positions on the issues. (Sect.14 & 14.1.4)
    Alexander's position is orthodoxy

     Is the begotten Logos divine? 

    The begotten Logos is fully divine, God's nature is immutable.  Arius' claims are false and imply the falsehood that God only became the Father by creating the Word.

    Was the begotten Son created? 

    The begotten Son was not created by the Father.

    How is salvation effected (accomplished)?

    Salvation is effected by the Son's essential identity with the Father.

    Is the Logos equal with the Father?

    Origen strongly affirmed the equality of the Logos with God the Father.
  4. Recognize the issues in question and match Arius with his positions on the issues. (Sect.14 & 14.1.4)
    Arius' Position is heresy

       Is the begotten Logos divine?

    God’s nature would be changed by the human life of Jesus and Jesus must not be fully divine but rather must be a great and exalted creature.

    Was the begotten Son created?

    Son of God must be a greater creature and not God himself. 

    How is salvation effected (accomplished)?

    Salvation is affected by the Son's identity with the creatures

    Is the Logos equal with the Father?     

    The subordination of the Logos to the Father  (less than the Father)
  5. Recognize the four critical beliefs established by the Council of Nicaea. (Sect. 15.1–15.4)
    • 15.1. Christ was very God of very God
    • Jesus himself was God in the same sense that the Father was God. Differentiation exists in the relationship in which each stands to the other, i.e., eternally begotten.

    • 15.2. Christ was of one substance with the Father
    • The term homoousios (same essence or substance) caused a controversy because it reminded some of the previous Sabellian heresy that did not differentiate the Father from the Son. Therefore, many preferred homoiousios (a like or similar substance). In the end, homoousios (same essence or substance) won out because it asserted as unequivocally as possible that Christ was truly “very God of very God.”

    • 15.3. Christ was begotten, not made
    • Christ was not created as other beings but was from eternity the Son of God. The only way God can be eternally Father is if He has an eternal Son. The relationship of the Son to the Father is one of eternal begottenness.

    •    15.4. Christ became human for us, and for our salvation
    • Christ could not have brought salvation to us if he was only a creature. Humanity cannot pull itself up to God by its bootstraps. Salvation was of God.
  6. Recognize descriptions of the three lines of theological reasoning that Athanasius followed regarding therelationship of the Son to the Father. (Sect. 16.1.3)
    • Metaphysical
    • If there was a time when the Son was not,then there was a time when the Father was not a father, which means change.God cannot change.

    • Soteriological
    • If the Son is not “truly God” in the same sense as the Father, then salvation as re-creation isimpossible. Only God can undo sin and bring a creature to share in the divine nature. Unless Jesus Christ was both “truly God” and “truly man” salvation simply could not occur.

    • Revelational
    • In order for Jesus to be the true revelation of God and not merely another image or prophet, he had to be God. Only God can truly reveal God.
  7. Recognize what gave rise to the Council of Constantinople (Sect. 16.2)
    Throughout much of the 4th century, the great Trinitarian controversy swirled around the Arian and Sabellian heresies. The controversy was over how the full deity of the Son and the Spirit can be affirmed along with their eternal distinction from the Father.
  8. Recognize the results of the three Cappadocian Fathers’ accomplishments. (Sect. 16.2)
    Following Athanasius, they defended the homoousios of the Holy Spirit; and they standardized the orthodox language: God is one ousia (substance; nature) and three hypostases (subsistences; individual examples). By speaking in this way, the full deity of the Son and the Spirit can be affirmed along with their eternal distinction from the Father.
  9. Recognize three important additions that the Council of Constantinople made to the Nicene Creed (Sect. 17)
    • 17.1. Added historical specificity to the section about Jesus
    • 17.1.1. “incarnate by…the Virgin Mary”
    • 17.1.2. “crucified under Pontius Pilate”

    • 17.2. Made more clear the equality of the Holy Spirit
    • 17.2.1. Over against the opposition of the Pneumatomachians (“fighters against the Holy Spirit” who ,after 325 AD, began to deny a separate existence of the Holy Spirit.)
    • 17.2.2. Expanded the formula of the Nicene Creed
    • The expanded formula of the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD clarified that even as Jesus was fully God, so also was the Holy Sprit.

    • 17.3. Added language regarding the Church, baptism, resurrection from the dead, and eternal life
    • 17.3.1. Church
    • • One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic
    • 17.3.2. Baptism
    • 17.3.3. Resurrection
    • 17.3.4. Eternal Life
  10. Recognize the importance of the Nicene Creed. (Sect. 17)
    The “Nicene Creed” (i.e., the “Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed”) has remained the bedrock foundation for the Church’s theology, worship, and prayer for 1700 years.
  11. Recognize definitions of the term synergism (Sect. 18.5 text box)
    The idea and belief that God’s agency and human agency cooperate in some way to produce both history and salvation.
  12. Recognize definitions of the term monergism. (Sect. 18.5 text box)
    The idea and belief that human agency is entirely passive and God’s agency is all-determining in both universal history and individual salvation.
  13. Recognize whether the following are proponents of synergism or monergism: Augustine, Pelagius, the“Semi-Pelagians,” and the position of the Roman Catholic Church since the Synod of Orange. (Sect. 18.5.1,, 18.8.2 & 18.8.4 Conclusion)
    Augustine introduced monergism to combat Pelagius’s synergism.

    Pelagius’s synergism asserted that: Humans can naturally live sinless lives Rejection of original sin If sin is inevitable, how can we be held responsible?

    “Semi-Pelagians” (synergists)

    • 18.8.4. Synod of Orange
    • Arrived at an inconsistent position that incorporated both synergism and monergism:
    • • Accepted the Augustinian position in name, but proposed a more synergistic alternative.
    • • And yet condemned the synergists: Cassian, the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians.
    • • Augustine’s radically monergistic view was accepted by the Magisterial Reformers, but not by many in the West.

    • CONCLUSION: Since the Synod of Orange, the Roman Catholic Church’s position has been essentially synergistic.
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Lecture 3 – The Debate over the Nature of Christ (John Karanja)
2012-07-12 22:09:38
Lecture – Debate over Nature Christ John Karanja VLI Summer 2012 History Christian Church Theology

Lecture 3 – The Debate over the Nature of Christ (John Karanja), VLI, Summer 2012, History of the Christian Church and Theology
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