The Political Church: The Church and Power

Church StateThere’s been considerable discussion lately in our churches and among Christians over whether the United States is or should be a “Christian nation.” Much of the discussion centers on what the framers of the Constitution meant by certain words in the First Amendment and what Thomas Jefferson meant by his reference to a “wall of separation.”

But precious little time has been spent determining whether God wants the United States to be a “Christian nation.” Now, obviously, he wants all people to come to Jesus and be saved. He wants all Americans (and all Afghans) to be saved. And so, if we mean by “Christian nation” a nation filled with saved people, yes, God wants all nations to be Christian nations.

But what kind of power does God want the church to have in such a nation? Does he want the church to control the presidency, the Congress, and the courts? And that’s not quite so easy a question to answer. But, as is so often the case, history helps us gain perspective.

Let’s go back to Israel, which truly was a theocracy. The nation of Israel was originally led by a series of men and women called “judges.” Some judges, such as Deborah, actually served as judges, deciding disputes because of her wisdom and gift of prophecy. But Deborah also commanded the general of the nation’s army. She was both commander-in-chief and a one-women supreme court. But God himself was the Congress! He instructed Moses on the writing of the Law of Moses.

Some years later, despite God’s warnings, the people begged for a king to be anointed, and so God gave them Saul to rule over them. God gave Saul his Holy Spirit, so that Saul, for a time, had the presence of God within him, equipping him for the throne of Israel.

Of course, we know the story. Saul became arrogant, he lost the Spirit, and was eventually replaced by David, and later, Solomon replaced David. Solomon built God’s temple but also conscripted 30,000 people into forced labor and allowed the construction of temples to false gods.

The next generation divided the nation north and south (Jeroboam and Rehoboam), and the two kingdoms strayed further from God. Eventually, God allowed the northern tribes to be taken into Assyrian captivity because of the severity of their idolatry. And, later, Judah became so idolatrous that God allowed the Babylonians to conquer the nation, destroy the Temple, and carry the Judeans into the Babylonian captivity.

The idolatry was so severe that even the kings sacrificed their own children — as babies — to the idol Molech, allowing them to be burned alive. Every once in a while a king would arise who honored God as the only god and who’d destroy and the altars and “high places” for idol worship. But it’s clear that even these good kings were unable to persuade the people to honor God only. As soon as they died, the kings’ own sons took up idolatry. The nation was so corrupted that even God-fearing kings couldn’t pass their faith on to their children!

After the Persians allowed Nehemiah and Ezra to rebuild the Temple and some of the Jews to return, the new nation was under Persian rule and later Seleucid rule. But under the Maccabees, the Jews managed to throw off foreign rule and convert Judea into an independent nation. Once again, Judea was a theocracy. And while idolatry was no longer the problem, the new nation did not fare well.

The Jews divided into disputing camps. The Essenes rejected the new government because they saw violations of the Torah — especially in terms of the priesthood. The Maccabees had overthrown Rome, but were Levites and so couldn’t sit on the throne of David, and yet they ruled from the temple. The Pharisees sought to find God’s favor through very strict obedience to Torah. The Saduccees, who were the priests, were in power because of the temple tax and the power of the treasury — and they sought compromise with the Greek culture that surrounded them.

The descendants of the Maccabees, in a struggle for power, invited Rome to weigh in. And Rome weighed in by conquering Jerusalem with virtually no resistance. And so by the time of Jesus, Israel was once again under foreign rule.

In Jesus’ time, the Zealots wanted revolution, recalling the independence they enjoyed under the Maccabees and under the Davidic dynasty. And many prayed for the coming of the Messiah — the Son of David, who would sit on throne of David and bring freedom to God’s children.

And Jesus came — and many begged him to overthrow Rome. Among those asking him to gain earthly power was Satan himself, at the beginning of his ministry. We generally fail to see this dynamic in the Gospels as powerfully as we should. For example, in the Triumphal Entry, the people waved palm branches — symbols of the Maccabean dynasty and Jewish national independence! Yes, they proclaimed Jesus as Messiah, but they wanted Jesus to overthrow the Romans!

Jesus certainly could have founded an earthly kingdom. God had done that before and he could do it again. If what God wanted was an army of Christ followers defeating Rome and ruling the Empire for Jesus, he could have done it. But he didn’t.

Indeed, rather than accept the people’s plea, Jesus preferred to submit to crucifixion. Of course, this was the ultimate defeat of Rome.

(Col 2:15 ESV) He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

The church suffered bitter persecution, torture, and fines and yet grew under Roman rule until, in the Fourth Century, Constantine was forced to legalize Christianity. And not long afterwards, Christianity became the state religion. Formerly pagan temples were turned over to the Christians, who no longer had to meet in houses or tunnels, but could meet in large congregations in public.

Some actually read Revelation 21-22 to apply to this time, as though finally gaining political power is the new heavens and new earth. It surely must of have seemed that way to many.

But not to the unorthodox. Doctrine became the means used by the newly empowered church to enforce its power, and heretics were brutally suppressed. For a time, the suppression was so egregious that Rome reverted to paganism under Emperor Julian (the Apostate). According to Hellenica,

Constantine and his immediate successors had prohibited the upkeep of pagan temples, and many temples were destroyed and pagan worshippers killed during the reign of Constantine and his successors. The extent to which the emperors approved or commanded these destructions and killings is disputed, but it is certain they did not prevent them.

You see, the Christians became guilty of the very persecutions they’d suffered for so long.

Eventually, the church became more and more powerful, so that in Medieval times, the Pope had authority over the kings of Europe — leading to the Crusades, including the sack of Constantinople, in which thousands of Eastern Orthodox Christians were killed by Catholic Christian Crusaders.

By the 16th Century, Ulrich Zwingli and Martin Luther were beginning the Protestant Reformation. Zwingli pled for a return to First Century Christianity. But when a group petitioned him to restore baptism of believers by immersion, he declared them heretics and persecuted them fervently. Their leader was killed by drowning, in a parody of his views on baptism. The believers were, of course, the founders of the Anabaptist movement, which grew despite persecution by both Catholic and Protestant authorities.

Luther’s Reformation led some peasants to revolt against their kings, with some even founding a communist society in an effort to emulate the Christians of Acts 2. Luther voiced no objection as hundreds of thousands were killed by the kings and princes. Only Catholicism and Lutheranism would be allowed in Germany.

It was about this time that a novel philosophy appeared on the scene: atheism. And the roots of atheism are found in the abuse of power by the Christians, who persecuted, tortured, killed, and imprisoned each other to enforce their brand of Christianity and to preserve their power.

In ancient Rome, the pagans found Christianity so attractive that they’d suffer persecution, torture, death, and imprisonment to become one. In 16th Century Europe, Christianity was so brutal that the atheists would suffer persecution, torture, death, and imprisonment rather than become one.

We Christians don’t do well with power.

(2Co 12:9 ESV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The result of Christian infighting in France was the rejection of Christianity in the French Revolution, which made atheism the official state religion, only shortly after the American Revolution. But the English developed a solution through freedom of religion. We’ll consider John Locke’s solution in the next post of this series.

For now, suffice to say that I don’t want the church to be in power — first, because God doesn’t, and second, because I’ve seen what power does to Christians. I’ve read our history.

Avatar of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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30 Responses to The Political Church: The Church and Power

  1. Jimmy Caslieu says:

    "But not to the unorthodox. Doctrine became the means used by the newly empowered church to enforce its power, and heretics were brutally suppressed…..You see, the Christians became guilty of the very persecutions they’d suffered for so long."

    Or instead, the 'unorthodox' were the true Christians and what we have inherited through the supposedly orthodox that perpetrated the persecutions is wrong, even the Scriptures are not what they once were having the tares of the Imperial church's leaven inserted therein, such as that "rulers are not a terror to good works" (Rom 13) — everyone knows that rulers are indeed very much a terror to good works! How could Paul have been so naive??? He wasn't. That is clearly an addition made under Commodus' watch.

  2. Jimmy Caslieu says:

    "For now, suffice to say that I don’t want the church to be in power — first, because God doesn’t, and second, because I’ve seen what power does to Christians. I’ve read our history."

    The issue then is what is a Christian and that can only be answered by asking "What is the gospel"?

    If the gospel is "Believe in me or I will send you to eternal torment to urn in hell forever because I'm God and that's what I do" then surely when 'Christians' burn and torture one another they must be acting correctly for they merely emulate God.

    But if the gospel is that a Better God than the Jewish Demiurge (i.e. Maker) god has seen the plight we have suffered under the cruel hand of the Maker and sent his Son Jesus Chrestos (Jesus the Good One) to purchase us from the said World-Maker and thus deliver us from the cruel fate the Demiurge. This Jewish god also called Kosmokrator (World-Ruler) intended to send all to hell forever, but the Good God intervened by sending his Son to satisfy the blood-thirsty insanity of the World-Ruler and purchase us from him. This is called Marcionism, the most 'dangerous' of all the 2nd century 'heresies.'

    But doesn't the Good God of Marcionism sound more like Jesus than the cruel tyrant of 'orthodox' Christianity whose doctrine amounts to nothing more than "almighty might makes right"??

    Seriously, 'orthodox' Christianity says we have to hold the OT god blameless in commanding the Jews to commit genocide against Gentiles because "He's God: Everything he does is always right even when clearly immoral, because he's Almighty." Surely this thinking is in reality the OPPOSITE of everything that Jesus stood for! Clearly, therefore, 'orthodox' Christianity is the real heresy and the supposedly most 'dangerous' 'heresy' called Marcionism is true Christianity.

    Jesus promised we'd be persecuted, but we good 'orthodox' drones are not. The Marcionites were. The Marcionites (they only called themselves Chrestians, others labelled them Marcionites) were persecuted constantly to the point of being wiped out, at least organizationally finally by the 10th century. Yet up to the 12th a similar group, the Cathars, continued in France, finally being wiped out also by the crusades.

    The organization may die but the truth remains hidden in the gospels and in Paul's epistles for those who have eyes and ears. If only we could awake from the fog and have Moses' veil removed from our hearts, for Paul testifies in 2nd Corinthians that "the god of this world" veils our gospel with the veil of Moses and the Old Testament. What he meant has been similarly veiled by the Kosmokrator, but he meant that the Judaizers had corrupted the gospel to make Jesus appear to be the Jewish God rather than a higher God who came to defeat him which he truly was.

    Awake!! Awake!! And put off the OT veil so that the glorious light of the true unadulterated unjudaized gospel of Christ may shine unto you!

  3. Jay Guin says:

    Jimmy,

    I can't help but get the impression that your teachings are highly anti-Semitic. You set Christianity in opposition to the Jews and "Jewish God," ignoring countless verses and the over-arching themes of all of scripture. And if you're supporting the views of Marcion that you mention in your fourth paragraph, you are blaspheming.

    Therefore, I'm moderating your comments, as this site will not be used for blasphemy or anti-Semitism. You may comment as you wish, but comments will only appear after I've reviewed them.

    Now, while I don't at all agree with your characterization of the orthodox doctrine of hell, you should know that I'm a conditionalist, meaning that I don't believe hell lasts forever. Rather, God destroys those who are not his — they die a second death — and their punishment is proportional to their wickedness. The Surprised by Hell series covers these teachings in detail.

    It's not true that the orthodox weren't persecuted. They were persecuted severely pre-Constantine. That's 300 years of persecution. The orthodox church did sin greatly in their treatment of heretics after Constantine, but by then, the church had become far removed from its roots — and one of the problems with the post-Constantine church is that they were too far removed from the Jewish roots of Christianity. They Hellenized it, and this led to serious problems.

    Now, I could explain why the NT plainly refutes Marcion, but your earlier comment about the NT being edited under "Commodus' watch" suggests to me that you think the Roman government edited the scriptures in the late Second Century. I've never heard such a theory, and there's no point in discussing the scriptures if we don't agree on what the scriptures say.. Therefore, I'd like to know how you come to the conclude that the scriptures were re-written under the watch of Commodus.

    I'm glad that you seem to be a follower of Jesus, and I understand your disagreements with the orthodox doctrine of hell. I don't agree with it either. But Marcionism isn't the solution.

  4. John says:

    You've been reading Lipscomb.

  5. Chris Allen says:

    "It was about this time that a novel philosophy appeared on the scene: atheism. And the roots of atheism are found in the abuse of power by the Christians, who persecuted, tortured, killed, and imprisoned each other to enforce their brand of Christianity and to preserve their power."

    Well said and something I've believed for a long time. In our society we seem blind to the roots of why people are leaving churches and why atheism is growing as an alternative to faith. Maybe instead of blasting the views of these well-known atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, among others, we should be looking inward and trying to figure out why people are buying their books and taking them seriously. The answer is that people are becoming more and more cold to American style Christianity, which has become a cultural and political force over the last thirty years and has largely stopped being a spiritual one.

    I don't believe the framers wanted our nation to be a "Christian nation" and that is a good thing. They had a historical perspective that many of us don't have. They saw the corruption of the state churches throughout Europe. But whatever the framers truly wanted, the fact remains that churches don't have a good track record in the political arena and it is probably the main reason that Europe is so secular today. We don't need to follow that path here in the United States.

  6. Chris Allen says:

    And just a follow-up to that, but I believe that the "conversion" of Constantine and the official recognition of Christianity as the religion of the Empire was the worst thing that happened to Christianity in it's earlier years, maybe the worst thing that happened to it in it's history, as it lead to all the abuses like the Crusades and the Inquisition that came later. The church worked through and got over all of the heresies, but they never got over this, largely because it has always been taught as a good thing.

  7. JMF says:

    Curse all of you guys for forcing me to think outside of my box!! :)

    I've always been pretty comfortable in my conservative/libertarian beliefs…you guys are making me re-evaluate some things. Good stuff.

  8. Alan says:

    At best, the relationship between the church and the government (any government) is tentative. Christians cannot really trust government because government operates from a different set of values. In the case of the USA, the government's values are by definition the values of worldly culture, since they arise from the popular vote. It is a huge mistake to trust those values. The scriptures warn us repeatedly about that.

  9. Guy says:

    Alan,

    Very well put–i heartily agree. (And yet i cannot tell you how many people i've experienced in congregations all over the country who equate being Christian with being Pro-America. Why has the American church been so ubiquitously fused with US-patriotism?)

    –Guy

  10. Jay Guin says:

    John,

    I have read a little Lipscomb — but I don't agree with his conclusions that Christians must be utterly separated from the government. But we do agree on the dangers of mixing church and government. I just think … well, that's for a future post.

  11. Jay Guin says:

    JMF,

    I'm an economic conservative and think the federal government is too big. I'm just not anti-government, and I'm not loyal to any parties.

  12. Jay Guin says:

    Dear readers,

    I have 5 comments from Jimmy Caslieu queued for moderation. He is a Marcionite — as indicated in his earlier comments above. As I indicated in my earlier response, I consider the teachings of Marcion not only error but blasphemy, as the doctrine teaches that the God the Old Testament is wicked, replaced by the God of the NT, revealed in Jesus.
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/marcion.htm

    While arguably not Gnostic, Marcion's teachings have many similarities — references to the "demiurge" for example.

    I've been fighting illness for a while and not really up for the discussion. However, I can think of at least two good reasons that someone feeling better than I do might be willing to have such a conversation.

    First, for the sake of Jimmy.

    Second, because we've had a number of comments over the last few months regarding God's "genocide" under the Law of Moses, and the difficulty many have reconciling those accounts with God as revealed in Jesus.

    That's a serious question and well worth pursuing. And I might pitch in now and again, but I'm not up to carrying the load. There are other things I need to be working on.

    I have no interest in posting his comments only to have people express condemnation and dismay. It's not worth pursing unless someone here is willing to address the merits of his claims.

    So … shall I post his comments?

  13. Gary Cummings says:

    It is amazing that the current belief of the Jehovah Witness movement is very similar to the Marcionites, as well as some of the original Restoration Movement teaching against the Trinity. I read a JW tract which had a very firm teaching against the Trinity. It reflected both Marcionite and RM teaching. It was the same teaching I received directly and indirectly while I was with the COC. We need to get beyond that to the new heresy of James Tabor. He was raised in the churches of Christ, educated at ACC and Pepperdine, then went to the Armstrong church-the Worldwide Church of God, got his PhD at the University of Chicago. Since then he has distanced himself from the New Testament, embraces only the Hebrew Bible, a heavily edited Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, and perhaps the letter of James. He is part of the "lost tomb of Jesus" movement.

    Marcion was a heretic, his teachings are heresy, and yes, those teachings were taught in the churches of Christ in the 1960's through 70's. Now Trinitarian beliefs seem to hold more sway: The Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, But the Father is not Jesus or the Holy Spirit, Jesus is not the Father or the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father or Jesus.

    I would let the Marcionite stuff be posted with a disclaimer that: (1) it is a heresy, (2) some portions of the RM taught it (3) some portions of the RM still teach it.

  14. Mike Ward says:

    The statement that Churches of Christ ever taught Marcionism is ridiculous.

  15. Gary Cummings says:

    No, it is not ridiculous. I heard it. Many people in the COC would not describe themselves as Trinitarians, and would not say they were Modalist. There are three historic Christologies at play: Trinitarianism, Modalism, and Marcionism. The tract I read form the JW was the same teaching I received at Ft. Worth Christian COllege from 1965-1967 from Church of Christ teachers. Because of the uneasiness of the COC with the doctrine of the Trinity, I was not properly taught, and for several years danced with Modalism, until I properly read and educated myself and embraced the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity. I would bet a dollar to a donut that a 1/3 to 1/2 of COC folks could properly be called Marcionite in their Christology.

  16. Mike Ward says:

    Gary,

    First, Marcionism is not a Christology. Marcion's Christology was Docetism (no I did not know that off the top of my head I had to look it up). But Marcionism was a whole lot more than just a Christology.

    But anyway, CoC theology generally includes a form of Trinitarianism. The fact that members often object to the term is irrelevant. It does not make them Marcionists. Some actually may be non-trinitarian but that does not make them Marcionists either.

    And I know you don't care that members of the CoC don't generally describe themselves as Trinitarians because they don't describe themselves as Marcions either, and you don't care about that.

    At first I thought you might be confusing Marconism with dispensationalism, but now I think you are just intentionally spreading slander. You obviously have enough background to know better.

  17. Gary Cummings says:

    Mike,
    Sorry about brain fog. Since I am in remission from sarcoidosis, I sometimes suffer from "brain fog". It is true that there are some elements of Marcionite teaching within the RM. What I though I was referring to was Arianism. Now that is a classical Christology along with Trnitarianism and Modalism. I apologize for any misunderstanding. It came to me a few moments after I posted that I had used the wrong terminology. Thank you for catching that. There was no intent on my part to spread any slander of any kind. I do stand by my statements of Arianism. The Christology of the JW's and some portions of the RM are very similar, if not the same. Barton Stone was not a Trinitarian. He was properly a modalist. At times Campbell fought the doctrine of the Trinity, and then seemed to embrace it at times. I do believe doctrinal clarity is necessary. The Christology of the COC in the 60's and early 70's was not clear, I met a few Trinitarians, some Arians, and a few modalists. This doctrinal confusion had led to some disasters in my opinion. Brent Graves was educated at ACC with an MA in Greek. He was a modalist when I met him, and he drew me further in that direction for a while. Then James Tabor, PhD, was raised and educated in the COC, then went to the University of Chicago, and now is one of the "Lost Tomb of Jesus" experts. John Mark Hicks has an article about Christology within the RM, and he admits there was a diversity of opinion. I caught my mistatement about Marcion when I read his article and came back here to correct it. He does say that much or most of the RM is now Trinitarian. You can look at Piney.com and find some of the anti-Trinitarian folks there. Again, I apologize for any misunderstandings due to my misstatement of facts. Sarcoidosis is a dreadful thing, even though it did not kill me.

  18. Gary Cummings says:

    Jay,
    As I posted to the other brother, I was mistaken about confusing Marcionism with Arianism. We have had a few tendencies in the RM to do away with the OT at times. It has been kept for the creation stories, the flood and a few other things. But the ethical demands of the prophets were set aside during the CIvil Rights movement. The demand for justice was "Old Testament". Romans 13 was used to set the prophets aside for the idea that we had to obey Jim Crow laws. The OT corrected that false notion.
    That being said, Arian Christology was evident in the early RM movement, and in the 20th century as well. John Mark Hicks talks about this in his work on RM Christology. Piney.com is very anti-Trinitarian.
    The residue of my sarcoidosis gives me "brain fog" at times, and I can easily switch terminology.
    Anyway, as far as the Marcionite guy goes, I would post it under two conditions: (1)identify it as a heresy, (2) repent of any RM tendencies to throw the OT.
    Just my thoughts.

  19. Mike Ward says:

    Gary,

    Thanks for the correction. I understand now that you simply mispoke regarding Marcionism.

    At first I did consider you might have simply used the wrong term. For my part I should have given you the benefit of the doubt a bit longer. I was a little sensitive because Marionism is such an obvious and extreme heresy. That's not an excuse, and I'm sorry.

    However, I'm still not sure you are correct. I was only half remembering what Arianism was so I'm scanning the Catholic Encycopedia article on it and it looks like Arians consider Christ to be a created being. I've NEVER heard anyone in the Church of Christ believe that.

    It looks like Semi-Arianism maybe like Arianism but with the view that Christ is eternal. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.) Anyway, it does look to me like Semi-arianism might be similar to views heldby a lot of Christians in the Churches of Christ. But I would hardly call this heretical.

    Theologians have been arguing Christology for centuries precisely because the bible is not completely clear on the matter. It's easy to reject unitarianism based on scripture, but after that it's hard for me to be dogmatic.

    Just, because a bunch of ancient bishops spent so much time trying to find the perfect wording to describe the nature of Christ and then denounced everyone as heretical that didn't accept the creeds they created is no reason we have to do it.

    Christ is God. That's enough for me. I have no more interest in what "substance" he is made of than I do how many angels can dance in the head of a pin.

  20. Gary Cummings says:

    Mike,
    Thanks for understanding. I heard , in the 60's and 70's that Jesus was not eternal. That meant there was a time when He did not exist (per that doctrine). John 1:18 calls Jesus "the only begotten (unique) God in the best manuscripts. Paul calls Jesus "our great God and savior".
    Hebrews has the Father calling the Messiah "God".
    All that being said, there are about 3 options, and I have heard all three in the COC: Trinitarianism, Modalism, and Arianism. The RM since the 80's have gone the more Trinitarian route., which is a good thing.
    The JW tract I read about the Trinity, was identical to the Christology I was taught in the 60's by COC preachers and teachers. That is my experience which I can not deny. It is not the word "Trinity" that is the crux of this discussion we are having. It is the reality behind that doctrine. Also the doctrine of the Trinity was clarified to combat the heresies of both Modalism and Arianism. Grudem has a good section on the Trinity in his SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY.

  21. Mike Ward says:

    I have been told by a JW that Christ was created and that specifically he was Michael the archangel, but regarding RM churches, I had never heard anyone teach Christ was not eternal.

    I wish I had my copy of "The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement" here, but I've loaned it to a friend. It probably has a section on Christology, and I'd like to see what it says.

    Interstingly (to me anyway), I'm noticing that "Why I Am a Member of the Church of Christ" which is practically the Church of Christ's de facto catechism has no section on Christology.

  22. Gary Cummings says:

    Is that Batsell Barrett Baxter's book "[20 million Reasons] Why I am a Member of the Church of Christ"

    Some reading I have done indicates that many evangelists and elders only expected a confession of faith in Jesus as the Son of God was sufficient for baptism, REGARDLESS of what that person meant. An Arian, Trinitarian, or Modalist could ALL call Jesus the Son of God, but with different meanings. 2 out of 3 of those positions are heresies. No COC member has ever called Jesus Michael the Archangel, but I have heard that "there was a time when Jesus did not exist. Look at John Mark Hicks work on this, his article is quite good, though he mistakeningly calls BW Stone an Arian. Look at the Piney.com area (5 minutes is all I could take!) and you will see a lot of anti-Trinitarian teaching, and they represent the most conservative COC elements.

  23. laymond says:

    Gary, and Mike, do you believe in the " trinity doctrine"
    as written, or your version of it, have you ever read it?

    But you are right when you say the CoC was seriously invaded by this belief, starting in the "80's"
    And you are also right when you associate the beliefs of the JW movement to that of the CoC years ago, and there are many within the walls of the CoC today that gasp when the progressives put forth this idea, "Three Gods acting as one" then they say Jesus and God are the same, all in the same breath, no matter that the two things cancel the other out. if they are the same they cannot be different, or indiviguals.

  24. Mike Ward says:

    Gary,

    I'm starting to find some examples of what you are saying.

    Also, I was brought up on the other side of the RM (Christian Church then DoC) and vaguely remember us being really vague on Christology. I don't remember really being taught Jesus was God until I came to the NI CoC. Though I was not taught that Jesus was not God either.

    Anyway, I would agree with those who say that a confession that Jesus was the Son of God is sufficient regardless of whether a person is a trinitarian or an arian or a modalist.

    There's so much controversy on this matter because different passages in the bible seem to suggest different things. I am not going to judge people for the way they resolve this.

    Anyway I now see some examples of Arianism in CoC, but I still have a hard to believing it is common.

  25. Gary Cummings says:

    Laymond,
    The Trinity teaches that there is one God acting at the same time throughout eternity in three persons. Jesus is eternal: "The Alpha and Omega" (Rev 1), Paul calls Jesus "Our great God and Savior"(Titus 2:13), John 1:18 in the best Greek manuscripts call Jesus "the only-begotten (unique) God (THEOS, NOT HUIOS). Isaiah 48:16 states:
    ""And now the Lord God has sent me and His Spirit." This is clearly evidence of the Trinity in the Old Testament. Though I am not crazy about proof-texting, these verses do indicate that God exists as three persons in One. I will say that some people are actually Trinitarians and do not know it, because they simply do not like the word "Trinity" as it is not found in the Bible, though the concept is. Jesus is God, but not God the Father.
    Mike,
    I do believe that clear Christology is important, and there is a reason that people are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Having an unclear Christology which allows for non-Trinitarian believers in a fellowship is not the proper way to do things, in my opinion. If opposite beliefs about the person and work of Jesus are held in a fellowship, there will be bitter debates unless the eldership is heavy handed and forbids discussion. A case in point is a non-denominational church my wife and I were attending for several months. I preached once or twice a month and we had other community ministers preach as well. There was a "Oneness-Pentecostal" with a lot of baggage who accused me of being "full of the devil: because I did not speak in tongues, and because I actually called him on his aggressive oneness preaching at the small church. I read the church constitution and it was historically a Trinitarian Church. I mentioned this to the other minister, and asked him for the sake of fellowship not to preach his oneness doctrine. He refused and spent the next three Sundays, berating me and all Trinitarians from the pulpit to the point of screaming and pointing at me. I had a meeting with the trustees, as we were members of this church. They thought about it, and said they found nothing wrong with his teaching, that he had been there friend for a long time, and besides they did not care for doctrine or sermons anyway. They just came to sing and play Blue Grass music and instruments. They wanted me to stay, but we left. I will not fellowship with Modalists or Arians, as their understanding of the work and person of Jesus Christ is extremely truncated and deficient . There is always more baggage. I will study with these folks at any time in a kind and loving way.

  26. laymond says:

    Here are two verses often used to cement the belief that Jesus always existed.
    Never mind they are both terriably misunderstood.

    John 1:3 contains two direct statements that tell us that it was the preexistent Jesus who created all things. "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." Notice that John is not content to say only that all things were made through Him, but John adds the fact that "without Him nothing was made."

    Paul confirms exactly what John wrote: "For by Him all things were created." Paul goes on to make sure that we understand what he means by all things—"that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16).
    If the above is true , what do we do with vs 14.

    Jhn 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

    Lets look at the word John used, (ginomai) transliterated , either as (made) or (became)
    ginomai – 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
    The word always existed, because it was a power of God, a power later to be given to God's only begotten Son. If The Father placed his son over all things, would it not be reasonable to say , all things already existed?
    Both Jn. 1:3 and Col. 1: 16 are refering to{" the word of God"

  27. Anonymous says:

    We worship one God in Trinity.

    Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

    Genesis 3:22 “Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.”

    Psalm 110:1 “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

    Isaiah 6:3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”

    Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

    Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

    Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

    John1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

    John 8:57-58 “Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

    John 14:15-18 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

    Romans 8:9-10 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

    Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

    Romans 9:5 “Of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”

    1 Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

  28. anon2 says:

    "We worship one God in Trinity. "

    Couldn't the Marcionite dude say the same even though he believes there are 2 gods he only worships one and that one happens to be a Trinity also?

  29. Alex Z says:

    Interestingly I don't think any of the heresiologists ever attack Marcion for rejecting the Trinity. That seems to imply that he did believe at least that the New Testament God was a Trinity even if he didn't believe the Old Testament God was. I can't think of any other reason what a guy like Tertullian would miss the chance to attack him on a rejection of the Trinity. But if Marcion did retain belief in a Trinity for the New Testament God I can understand why Tertullian would pass that over in silence. It is sort of hard to reconcile the Trinity with the doctrine of penal substitution. The whole notion of Jesus dying to appease his own Father makes less sense than dying to appease a rival deity. Thus, really, if a Marcionite group ever did go Trinitarian, they might wipe the floor with us.

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