Ever since Christ spoke the words `It is finished' as He expired on the cross at Gethsemane (John 19: 30), men have struggled with trying to understand how Christ was `made like unto His brethren' (Hebrews 2: 17), so that they might understand the manner by which Christ saves us. In the first few centuries after His death, these questions were hotly debated in Church councils. Eventually consensus was achieved - sometimes with the aid of the state, in the form of Roman Emperors who threatened to declare dissenters as heretics and ban them from the Empire, and the Church formulated Creeds which she declared to be orthodox, as she believes that the dogma represented by these Creeds is of divine inspiration and cannot err. First and foremost is the Nicene Creed. It was first formulated in 325 A.D and states in doctrinal form the inter-relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All doctrine of the Church is derived from this Creed, including the Chalcedonian (Athanasian) Creed, which settled into its present form in 451 A.D during the Council of Chalcedon, and states the nature of the `flesh' which Christ was incarnated in. The Catholic Church says of these two doctrines that:
`The authority of the Church was necessary for us to know the truth of the Trinity. This most distinctively Christian doctrine of all, the one that reveals the nature of God himself, the nature of ultimate reality, was revealed by God clearly only to the Church. It was not clearly revealed to his chosen people, the Jews. It is not clearly defined in the New Testament. God waited to reveal it to his Church. Scripture contains the data for the doctrine of the Trinity, but that was not enough, for every heretic, too, has appealed to the Scripture. As a matter of historical fact, it has proved impossible for men to know the nature of God without the true Church. The dogmas of the Trinity and the incarnation (and the two natures of Christ) were in fact derived from the Catholic Church.' (`Catholic Christianity: a complete catechism of Catholic beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church', P. Kreeft, 2001, p. 99. Nihil obstat and Imprimatur were granted by Rev. Milton T. Walsh, S.T.D & Most Rev. William J. Levada, Archbishop of San Francisco, Jan. 23, 2001. `The nihil obstat and Imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error.', p. 4.)
This statement implies that as no clear evidence for these two doctrines can be found in Scripture, then Protestants appeal to the supremacy of the Catholic Church over all other Churches for their belief in these doctrines - as well as a host of other doctrines which proceeded from the formulation of the Nicene Creed, upon which Catholic and Protestant faith originates. Suffice to say, if these doctrines do not reflect the `agape' of the apostolic Church, but instead reflect the `eros' of the Greeks, then these doctrines are antichrist, for doctrines which are based upon `eros' obscure the `agape' love of Christ and the Father and cannot adequately portray a correct representation of the character of God, for as the character of God is synonymous with the love of God, then our perceptions of how Christ has atoned for sin radically affects the way in which we respond to this divine demonstration of love which was manifested to all of humanity at Calavary. Unforturnately though, as our perception of this love can be marred by belief in doctrines which present a flawed conception of the atonement, it naturally follows that this affects the way by which we respond to Christ.
If we are to speak in theological terms, the popular view of the atonement which is accepted by the vast majority of Christian Churches is derived from the Chalcedonian Creed and is known as `vicarious substitution'. It declares that on the cross, Christ stood between us and the Law (the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments), and took upon Himself the penalty of death which the broken Law declares is due to the sinner, by vicariously suffering for us, and then dying as our substitute. While this appears at first glance to provide a plausible explanation of the atonement, this doctrine in fact raises legal issues which it cannot address, for western law, such as that which is found in England and the United States, does not regard it as truly ethical to allow an innocent man to substitute his life for someone who has committed a crime upon which the death sentence has already been passed! In fact, law in these countries will not allow this to happen! The reason why this is so is because the laws of these countries are derived from a legal document which is entitled the Magna Carta, and became law in England in 1215 A.D., when the authority of the divine right of the monarchy to enact law of its own devising was legally challenged. The 1297 version, which is entitled `The Creat Charter of the Liberties of England and the Liberties of the Forest' still remain on the statute books of England and Wales, and assumes that all men have certain unalienable God-given rights. It is based upon the Ten Commandments, and is the basis of all law from which the constitutions of England, the United States, Canada, Australia and all other countries which originally have the underlying precepts of their laws based upon those that are found within the English Constitution. Thus these laws in fact refute the very principles upon which this doctrine of vicarious substitution is founded! Another problem with this doctrine, is that it implies that we are saved by Christ's suffering, and not His death, for as the doctrine of `vicarious substition' is derived from the Chalcedonian Creed, and this Creed implies that Christ could not die the equivalent of the `second death' for the sins of men, then therefore this doctrine leaves fallen man with an incomplete atonement for sin. Therefore the doctrine of vicarious substitution cannot satisfy the judicial equity of the law, for reason that it provides an incomplete atonement for sin. Ironically its focus upon the divinity of Christ gives an appearance of providing an atonement which satisfies the positive demands of the law, and has thus deceived millions. However, this is not to say that Christ is not divine, for the judicial equity of the law demands that only a divine sacrifice can satisfy the legal demands of the broken Law: `Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will all of you also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life".' (John 6: 67, 68.)
For if these doctrines by the clear admission of the Catholic Church originated with her instead of Scripture - for she admits that no clear evidence of the Trinity can be found in Scripture; then it also follows that no clear evidence can be found for the Chalcedonian Creed and the doctrines which proceed from it, as this Creed is derived from the Nicene Creed and is a doctrinal statement which further expands upon it. So if these Creeds and the doctrines which proceed from them are not derived from any clear teaching of Scripture, then it most surely follows that all doctrines which have been formulated by the Catholic Church which depict the manner by which Christ saves fallen humanity have no clear teaching in Scripture, and cannot reflect the `agape' of Christ as taught by the apostolic Church! The doctrines which proceed from the Trinity (or Nicene Creed, as theologians call this doctrine), in fact reflect the self-centred form of love which the Greeks called `eros', for it is from Plato that this Creed is derived, and pictures God as so far removed from our human experience, that it is impossible for Him to manifest Himself in human flesh, as this would in itself constitute sin. Therefore we must go find Him by purifying our souls with good works.
In the first century, Christians believed almost without exception in the doctrine of the conditional immortality of the soul. But as Christians of the second, third and fourth centuries turned to the philosophies of Aristotle and Plato, and began to form an eclectic mix of Christianity and Greek philosphy, eventually the underlying precept of Greek philosophy - that God is `eros'; eventually became inculcated into Christian belief, and was then officially sanctioned as doctrinal truth by the ecumencial councils of that time. As `eros' became elevated over `agape', so also did Christians missapprehend the true character of God, and the Church slid into darkness. It then naturally follows that as these doctrines cannot adequately reflect the agape, or selfless mind of Christ, then these doctrines instead reflect the eros of the Greeks, or disguised selfishness of Lucifer, and must therefore be antichrist.
By the time that Emporer Constantine convened the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D, persecution of Christians had ceased twelve years previously. Agitation for control of the Church now increased in intensity, as Constantine was now a Christian, and whoever controlled the Christian Church would ultimately wield unequallede prestige and power with the blessing of the Emperor. Athanasius had written his document entitled `On the Incarnation [of Christ]' about five years beforehand when he was twenty one years old. This document formed the basis of the Nicene and Chalcedonian (Athanasian) Creeds. This was probably prompted by the Arian controversy first breaking out in about 318 A.D, when Arius first contended with Bishop Alexander about the eternal deity of Christ. While his enemies say that Arius's original quarrel with Alexander was that he himself had not been made bishop, which thus led to him circulating his subordinationist views about the human nature of Christ among the Churches; nevertheless - a showdown was looming between the two philosophical factions which could be found situated between the alliance of the Roman and Alexandrian Churches in the west, and Antioch in the east. For whichever faction won the day would in turn receive the support of Constantine, and the accompanying ecclesiastical power which would then ultimately ensue. It mattered little which faction eventually won the day, as both systems were based upon Greek philosophy, and the true gospel of the agape of Christ would ultimately obscured by philosophies of which the apostles of Christ believed to be antichrist.
Eventually Arius's Christological polemic became subjugated by the `orthodox' view of Athanasius, with the epithet `Arianism' becoming a by-word for heresy; when in fact although the central point upon which the two men argued was how Christ was manifested `in the flesh', the philosophies which the two men had imbibed dictacted how the incarnate Christ could have been manifested `in the flesh' without having His divinity corrupted by the material plane of existence which He descended into in His human incarnation, as the Greek logic which forms the basis of all Greek philosophy determines that anything which resides in the material universe is manifestly corrupt, so therefore Christ cannot manifest Himself in a body which is truly human and still retain a divine nature which has been uncorrupted by the perceived evil nature of human flesh. Therefore the two presbyters sought to quarantine Christ's divine nature from the corruption of the material world, or `body of flesh' which He manifested Himself in by providing answers which, though derived from Greek philosophy, were diametrically opposed to each other. Arius' answer was that Christ was `strong god', but not `full god', and had His divinity conferred upon Him in advance, as He virtuously overcame sin `in the flesh':
` ". . . . foreknowing that he would be good, God by anticipation bestowed on him this glory which afterwards, as man, he attained from virtue." Much has been made of this passage, to the effect that Arius maintained that it is only as a result of his virtuous action that Christ merits his status as Son so that the same sonship can be offered to others. . . . . Christ ends up a third type of being, between God and creation: created, as other creatures, yet specifically endowed, so as to bridge the gap between the two, and so not as one of the creatures.' (`The Nicene Faith', John Behr, p. 144.)
For Arius and his followers, salvation consisted of imitating the perfect example of Christ. This in turn mirrored the Greek idea of salvation, which consisted of the creature being drawn to the Creator by a process of divine attraction, so that the creature might imitate the Creator, and thus achieve perfection of the divine soul, as this extract from the pagan philosopher Plotinus's Enneads demonstrates:
`Since evil is here, “haunting this world by necessary law, and it is the Soul's design to escape from Evil, we must escape hence. But what is this escape? “In attaining likeness to God, we read from Plato. And this is explained as - becoming just and holy, living by wisdom [the exercise of the intellect], the entire nature grounded in Virtue. (Plotinus, `Enneads’, 2:1.)
It is from Arius that the `example theory' of the atonement is derived; semi-arian conceptualizations of the pre-incarnate Christ having a `beginning' and therefore not being `self-existent' and `co-existent' lead to Christ being depicted as subordinate to the Father in divinity (but pictured nevertheless as `strong god'); who saves us `by example'. The basic precept of Christianity - `justification by faith' is diminished, as adherents of this style of worship are forever `trying' to overcome sin by `being like Christ' and failing miserably in their efforts. Arianism by necessity enjoins a legalistic style of worship, as it presents its adherents with a depleted view of the divinity of Christ.
Athanasius's answer was to posit a `self existent' Christ Who is fullly divine; which became the orthodox position and is reflected in the Chalcedonian Creed, which was formulated from his writings in 451 A.D, some one hundred and twenty six years after Nicea was first convened. Athansius believed that Christ avoided corruption by taking upon Himself a human nature which could not be tempted by what became known in later centuies as `indwelling sin' - which further confused the issue by modern theologians believing that if Christ was `made in the likeness of sinful flesh' (Romans 8: 3), then this of itself would constitue `indwelling sin', and Christ would be a sinner by default! Athanasius instead presented us with a Christ Who can only be tempted by such `innocent infirmities' such as thirst and hunger; which effectively quarantined Him from the trials and tribulations of all men, by not being `tempted as we are in the likeness of sinful flesh' - when in fact Scripture states the opposite! Athanasius reasoned that if Christ took upon Himself `flesh' which is exempt from being tempted to sin, then therefore His divinity cannot be corrupted by the `flesh' which fallen man partakes of, and as the only man that has never been tempted to sin is Adam before he sinned, then Christ must take upon the `Holy' flesh of Adam which has not been tempted by sin! This `flesh' is so unlike our `flesh', that it cannot be described as being `made' like ours, for it effectively quarantines Christ from experiencing our temptations, and therefore excludes Him from posessing the necessary `qualifications' which determine that He is our Saviour. In theological terms, this is called the pre-lapsarian nature of Adam, and implies that Christ assumed the nature of Adam before the fall. Athanasius believed that:
`. . . . all created nature, of left to its own principles, was in flux and subject to dissolution. To prevent this and keep the universe from disintegrating back into non-being, he made all things by his very own Logos and endowed the creation with beings.' (Athanasius`Against the Heathen', 41.)
If this statement appears to be tinged with pantheism, this is precisely what it is, for it is to Athanasius that the following statements are attributed:
`Consistently, therefore, the Word of God took a body and has made use of a human instrument, in order to quicken the body also, and as He is known in creation by His works so to work in man as well, and to shew Himself everywhere, leaving nothing void of HIs own divinity and knowledge of Him. For I resume and I repeat what I said before, the Saviour did this in order that, as He fills all things by His presence, so also might He fill all things with the knowledge of Him . . . . For He was made man that we might be made God.' (Athanasius, `On the Incarnation', 1. 45, 54)
While commentators cannot agree to the extent of which Athaanasis had imbibed of the world-soul view, which is the pantheist doctrines of Platonism, or indeed whether he was ever influenced by pantheism at all; the pertinent factor which cannot be ignored is that this celebrated Doctor of the Church greatly influenced the formation of the Trinity - and the Trinity is regarded as the one doctrine which defines orthodox Christianity:
`The very foundation of the Church is the Holy Trinity; thus the unity of the Church reflects the unity of the Trinity.' (`The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth', B. Singer-Town, J. Claussien, C. VanBrandwijk, 2003, p. 107.)
Indeed, as all other doctrines which are deemed orthodox are derived from it - then if one does not profess it, then one is automatically assumed to believe theology which is derived from that of Arius, and is regarded as an Arian, or semi-arian, and is therefore regarded as a heretic. Although this writer does not subscribe to Trinitarianism or any other docrtrines which are derived from it - for they originate with the eros of the Greeks; nor do I subscribe to the notion that Christ is subordinate to the Father in divinity - for if He were, then a complete atonement for sin could not have been provided at Calvary