Mark Dankof's America

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Posts Tagged ‘International Lutheran Council (ILC)

Imputation and Declaration: The Links to God’s Grace in Jesus Christ

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther's Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther’s Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

 

[Mark Dankof’s article will appear in the next edition of Table Talk, the national publication of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod, an affiliate of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The article is a condensed version of a presentation on the Lutheran version of the doctrine of Justification by Grace Through Faith in Christ made recently to a seminar of evangelical Protestant high school students in San Antonio.]

—————————————————————————————————————-

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed [δὲ οὐκ ἐλλογεῖται μὴ ὄντος] when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign [δωρεᾶς τῆς δικαιοσύνης λαμβάνοντες ἐν] in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Romans 5:12-19 King James Version (KJV)

 

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God [ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν] in him.

2 Corinthians 5:21

– King James Bible “Authorized Version” Cambridge Edition

 

       Before we begin to cover the material in earnest, indulge me in a compulsive practice of mine that always characterized my time as an instructor in San Antonio at the former Texas Bible College.  It has characterized my time as a humble pastor in a small and struggling Lutheran parish in the Alamo City when I conduct classes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, and in every other pastoral call I’ve ever had.

       That practice is to recommend some of the best books available in assisting believing pastor and lay person alike in the regular and deeper study of God’s Word.  Every one of these books I will briefly mention today has been penned by individuals more gifted than I in this endeavor.  I am thankful I can access their work.  I am thankful I can commend the repository of Biblical knowledge and insight of these men and women to you.

       Consider the following as lifelong resources to add to your individual libraries over the course of time.  The first resource is the newly released update of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE, ISBN 9780310276197) a 5 volume set of 3,552 pages compiled under the supervision and superintendence of Dr. Moises Silva, the Revision Editor who has blessed Westmont College, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary over time with his brand of painstaking scholarship in complete submission to the authority of God’s Word and the Gospel of Christ. Download a free primer on the NIDNTTE at http://www.bit.ly/nidntte.

       Several one volume introductions to the Old and New Testament will always serve you in good stead.  Try An Old Testament Introduction (ISBN 9780310263418) by Tremper Longman III of Westmont College, and the late Raymond Dillard of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  Add An Introduction to the New Testament (ISBN 9780310238591) by D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, both of whom were professors of mine at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

       Since the Charismatic Renewal movement is something one will encounter in so many places today, I will commend to everyone here the book entitled, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: 4 Views (ISBN 9780310201557). The contributors include my old friend and instructor at Westminster Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Gaffin; Robert L. Saucy; C. Samuel Storms; and Douglas A. Oss.  Another of my New Testament instructors from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is the editor of this critical book, Dr. Wayne Grudem.

       Finally, I have slavishly used charts as a student and as a pastor trying to plumb the depths of God’s Word.  The Zondervan Publishing Company’s series of charts on every conceivable subject is worth your acquisition for the subjects you are drawn to study and examine as the Holy Spirit leads.

     Every seminar presentation I make is based on a circle.  My reference recommendations are the beginning of the circle which will conclude with where we have now begun.

     Let’s begin in earnest.  I have been asked to give this largely Protestant evangelical, non-Lutheran gathering of fine young people, a presentation of the essential aspects of orthodox Lutheran theological and Biblical insight on the person and work of Jesus Christ and the implications of this Biblically revealed Christology for the plan God has established from all eternity for the salvation of the Israel of God.  By this latter term, I mean all those through the ages who have “confessed with their lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their hearts that God has raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10:9).

     Put another way, the person and work of Jesus Christ and its centrality in God’s provision for salvation, is a fact in history if one accepts the Biblical witness.  But what are the implications for each of you?  Do each of you possess eternal life and salvation in the coming Kingdom of God, or not?  If not, the objective truth of the Biblical witness that “. . . the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . ” (John 1:14) is for you, an irrelevancy.

     Last summer, I made a presentation to the national gathering of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod–USA entitled, “The Hands of Time and the Appearance of Logos.”  In turn, that address was based on a 1996 talk and subsequent article entitled, “Creeds and Confessions as Liturgy.”  The 1996 presentation underscored how the early Confessing Church had to wrestle with all of the ancient Christological heresies whose presuppositions and methodology provide the foundation for every modern Christological heresy which threatens the Confessing Church of the present age.  I stated then that:

      “Among many heretical movements of significance to the early church were Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism, Monarchianism, and Arianism.  Out of orthodoxy’s clash with these came an increasingly systematized Christian theological rebuttal and the formulation of affirmative creedal statements. These statements may be seen not only as the voice of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church staking out its position in challenges past — but as the bequeathed legacy to today’s church, which must turn, paradoxically, to the past, to understand the ideological lineage and connections of ancient enemies to modern antagonists, as well to recover its own historical memory as the key to the reestablishment of a previously possessed Biblical identity, obscured by compromise with doctrinal relativism and repristinated apostasy.

       In summarizing these papers of the past two decades quickly, let me simply say that the Biblical witness is clear in the rebuttal of all apostates and heretics in history:  Jesus Christ is True God and True Man.  His active and perfect obedience to God’s law; His passive obedience to God the Father in willingly suffering death on the Cross at Calvary as the Lamb of God without spot or blemish; and the reality in time and space of his Resurrection from the dead are the sole basis for the salvation and eternal life of all who believe (John 14:6).  For those who believe, the Apostle Paul underscores the truism that “. . . no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:3).

     Fair enough. But given the comprehensive sinfulness and rebellion of all of humanity described by Paul in Romans 3: 9-20, how is it that the Holy Spirit and saving faith are bestowed upon some and not others? How are some declared righteous by God and not others, since all have an equally and fatally corrosive inability to observe the law perfectly as a prerequisite for earning God’s declaration of righteousness (Romans 3: 20)?

       Put another way, the key question is this:  How is the righteousness of God in Christ, and the benefit of status as one of God’s redeemed through Christ alone for all eternity, transferred or conveyed to each and every comprehensively sinful person in Adam (Romans 5:12f) who is subsequently able to “confess with their lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their hearts that God has raised Him from the dead“? (Romans 10:9).

       Enter the ingredients necessary for the appropriate reception of believing faith in Christ through the Holy Spirit of God, and the accompanying priceless gift of eternal salvation in Christ, and Christ alone:  These are the Imputation of God to the believer of an alien righteousness inherently extrinsic to all of humanity impacted by the sin of Adam.  This alien righteousness has its center in the active and passive obedience of Jesus Christ alone. The forensic Declaration of God that the Israel of God is righteous in Christ follows. The believer’s salvific status before God is the result of this process of Imputation and Declaration.  He or she can contribute not one whit to what has been accomplished by the Son of God on behalf of each and every Saint.  In a nutshell, the Protestant Reformational truth that we are justified by God’s grace alone, through Jesus Christ alone, is absolutely and irrevocably linked to what the New Testament tells us about Imputation and Declaration.  The Lutheran tradition and the Reformed are in complete accord on this mysterious truth.

     As a pastor and theologian with but limited gifts, I never attempt to reinvent the wheel built by our best scholars and exegetes in time.  However, God has given me a special gift in enabling me to find, evaluate, and catalog for your use and mine some of the best Biblical scholarship available either now or in the past.  When it comes to Imputation and Declaration, I will summarize what I believe is one of the best recent presentations on the subject of the Evangelical–and truly both Lutheran and Reformed–position on this critical subject.

     I commend to you The Gospel Coalition’s relatively recent book entitled “The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices” edited by D. A. Carson and Timothy Keller (Crossway, 2012).  For purposes of this seminar conversation today, I ask you to zero in on chapter 9, written by Wheaton College President and Reformed Scholar, Dr. Philip Graham Ryken. Chapter 9 is simply entitled, “Justification.”

     My summation of that chapter will hopefully provide your own roadmap to future Biblical study of the link between Imputation and Declaration, and the Doctrine of Justification understood in the context of God’s mysterious and merciful provision for salvation in Jesus Christ.  My summation largely coincides with that of evangelical Armenian scholar Roger E. Olson, except my evaluation of Ryken is more favorable. Olson is certainly a believer in Christ.  But note that his tradition parts with Luther and Calvin on the subject of free will, and with Augustine, Luther, and Calvin on the issue of the semi-Pelagianism of Jacob Armenius.  I cannot deal with this at great length now.  But please do not miss out on the critical differences inherent in these respective interpretations. Here then is the summary of chapter 9:

     1)  Ryken calls Justification the Chief Article.” He says “This doctrine holds a place near the center of the gospel.” (153)

     2)  Ryken bases most of his exposition of justification on passages from Romans, especially chapters 3 and 5. According to him, these Pauline passages and other passages of the New Testament, taken together, propound the truth that in salvation God “does not simply clear a sinner of all charges; he declares a sinner to be positively righteous. Justification is God’s legal declaration that, on the basis of the perfect life and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, received by faith, a sinner is as righteous as his own beloved Son.” (155-156)

     3)  This chapter is, for the most part, a straightforward account of the classical Lutheran-Reformed doctrine of justification as forensic imputation of righteousness. The emphasis is on legal metaphors, on declaration and imputation and not on personal relationship, reconciliation or transformation (of the person being saved). Salvation is primarily a change of legal status in relation to God’s judgment.  While the emphasis is on legal metaphors and change of legal status, this fact does provide the foundation for subsequent sanctification and walking in personal relationship with the Biblical God who is a personal being in constant engagement with His chosen.

     4)  Ryken believes the very doctrine of God is at stake in his doctrine of justification. Anyone who thinks God can simply forgive a repentant sinner without imputing Christ’s righteousness to him or her (something else he makes clear in the chapter) is impugning the character of God.

     5)  The most fascinating portion of the chapter is the logical symmetry Ryken presents in “The Righteousness of Justification: A Triple Imputation.” Ryken argues that Adam’s sin (meaning guilt) is imputed to everyone; our sin is imputed to Christ (on the cross) and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us in salvation. The key verses he cites for this triple imputation are Romans 5:12-19 (imputation of Adam’s sin to us) and 2 Corinthians 5:21 (our sins imputed to Christ and his righteousness imputed to us).

     As I promised at the beginning of this conversation, we have come full circle at the very end.  Why do I say this?  Let me first ask two questions only you can answer for yourself: Are these Biblical truths appropriated by you and for you in faith? Second, is what has been the understanding of God’s mysterious provision for your salvation and mine articulated by the Lutheran and Reformed traditions historically, and in my presentation of the position of Dr. Ryken today, the correct understanding of the Word of God?

     This is where your journey only begins, as the Holy Spirit of God moves and directs you.  Get the newly released update of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE, ISBN 9780310276197), Moises Silva (ed.) as I directed at the beginning of the circle.

   And obtain Strong’s Greek and Hebrew concordances.  See the words below in Strong’s concordances.  Use Strong’s in conjunction with NIDNTTE.  And begin a journey with our Biblical texts cited when we started today, and a lifelong journey with the entirety of God’s prophetic and apostolic Word.  You will be glad you did.

     Thank you, and may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

λογίζομαι (logizomai)  Strong’s Number 3049

δίκαιος, ία, ιον (dikaios)  Strong’s Number 1342

δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosune)  Strong’s Number 1343

δίκη, ης, ἡ  (diké)  Strong’s Number 1349

ἐλλογέω (Ellogeo)   Strong’s Number 1677

חָשַׁב  (chashab)  Strong’s Hebrew Number 2803

imputare (Latin)

Creeds and Confessions as Liturgy: Mark Dankof for the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod USA, 1996

Pastor Mark Dankof of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod-USA, a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

Pastor Mark Dankof of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod-USA, a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

Creeds As Confessions in Liturgy


by

Rev. Mark Dankof

The LMS-USA Indianapolis Conference

St. Matthew Lutheran Church

Indianapolis, IN

23 April 96

     Before my brief paper on Creeds as Confessions in Liturgy is read this morning, I would like to engage in covering two (2) housekeeping items. First, I offer my profound apologies to Pastor Spears and the entire national convention of the LMS-USA for my physical absence from Indianapolis. This was necessitated by several recent tragedies in my wife’s family, the completion of our emergency duties as temporary house parents of a pro-life maternity home here in Kerrville, Texas where I serve on the Board of Directors, and the fact that it was my misfortune to be clobbered by influenza beginning April 10 and intensifying April 15-17. My prayer is that I will see all of you soon, and that downstream, God will give me another opportunity to be in a Lutheran pulpit again.

     Second, I would like our convention to formally acknowledge the recent departure from this life of Dr. Arthur Braun, pastor emeritus of Calvary Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and former Bishop of the Minnesota District of the old American Lutheran Church. He died on Good Friday, April 5, at the age of 86. Dr. Braun was a gallant, sometimes lonely voice, in calling his church back to its Biblical and creedal heritage. Despite his best efforts, he was pained, in the waning years of his life, to witness not only the eventual formulation of the ELCA under circumstances hostile to evangelical orthodoxy, but the failure of two (2) other attempts to create a mainstream, confessional Lutheran church in America. His vision was for a church which would avoid both universalism and apostasy on the left, as well as some of the more sectarian and isolationist offerings at the starboard end of the American Lutheran spectrum. Copies of his obituary, a 1985 speech made in Waterloo, Iowa, and editorials from the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Christian News are available if anyone at today’s conference would like them, both for edification as well as for ongoing historical documentation on one of the orthodox Lutheran church’s giants. Art Braun fought the good fight unto the end, even in the conscious understanding that for all involved in the corporate fight for the soul of our denomination, time and history are not on our side, even as eternity and Jesus Christ firmly stand with us. Let us observe a moment of silence in Dr. Braun’s memory–


     Thank you. Now it is time to move on to the question of Creeds as Confessions in Liturgy in the life of the contemporary church. What is the significance of these various forms? What is the key history behind their development? Does their utilization today undermine or enhance the doctrine of Sola Scriptura? Is their present day employment a bone thrown to the memory of archaic times, persons, and seasons, relevant only to esoteric academicians and long discarded history textbooks? Or do they retain a legitimate, practical usage as a key line of defense in the maintenance of God honoring worship rooted in the history of the church catholic, as well as in the retention of an orthodox apology against newly repristinated ancient heresies and frontal assaults?

     If we assume the legitimacy of the Sola Scriptura today, and assume a commitment to the Lutheran Confessions as the normative explication of what the Bible teaches, an appropriate launching point for answering some of these raised questions may lie in what occurs first in the Book of Concord of 1580, namely the listing of the Three Ecumenical Creeds, or Three Chief Symbols of the Church as the foundational basis of all the Confessions which follow. This is important for several reasons.  First, the Confessions wanted to reiterate that their articles of faith were neither recent nor heretical, but were undergirded by the theological and historical foundations of the early Church. Second, it is noteworthy that the controversies of the second, third, and fourth centuries were consistently deemed applicable to the struggles of the Reformers in the sixteenth century. Third, if historical and theological struggles and issues of centuries two, three, and four continued to be relevant in the sixteenth, one might suspect the possibility of a prima facie relevance of those developments to a church under renewed attack from similar, in some cases identical forces, as we approach the beginning of the twenty first century. The writer of Ecclesiastes states that, “There is nothing new under the sun.” —this may well be his verdict on Biblical theology’s constantly recast conflict with false doctrine — fought time and again within the confines and context of redemptive history.

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther's Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther’s Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

     Among many heretical movements of significance to the early church were Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism, Monarchianism, and Arianism.

     Out of orthodoxy’s clash with these came an increasingly systematized Christian theological rebuttal and the formulation of affirmative creedal statements. These statements may be seen not only as the voice of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church staking out its position in challenges past — but as the bequeathed legacy to today’s church, which must turn, paradoxically, to the past, to understand the ideological lineage and connections of ancient enemies to modern antagonists, as well to recover its own historical memory as the key to the reestablishment of a previously possessed Biblical identity, obscured by compromise with doctrinal relativism and repristinated apostasy.

     The battle with Gnosticism is particularly instructive in application to today’s crisis of clarity and faith. Christianity had borrowed four (4) concepts from Judaism for its battle with this new threat. These were monotheism, the personhood of God, verbal revelation, and the idea of God’s intervention in real, time/space history. Gnosticism, an ancient forerunner of the modern existentialism of Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976), came to the appointed conflict with a variety of advocates and ideas, common threads which included the rejection of the Jewish Old Testament as fraudulent, the utilization of magic and the occult as a replacement for Christ in the connection of the physical and spiritual realms, the belief in docetism (Christ only seemed to have a human body/identity), the belief in the antithesis of the physical and spiritual realms, extreme asceticism, and every conceivable form of philosophical speculation outside of God’s written revelation. Irenaeus (125-202) and Tertullian (160-230) would be key players in the struggle with Gnosticism (and later Marcionism). Key Gnostic figures in the relevant period include Saturninus of Syria, Basilides of Egypt (who posited a sexual union of Dynamis and Sophia in the creation of 365 aeons between an unknowable Father and humanity — this places last year’s Goddess Sophia conference of the ELCA, PCUSA, and UMC in context!!!), and Valentinus of Rome (who posited Christ as the offspring of Sophia and as the last of 30 special aeons between God and humanity. Christ was a docetic Christ, and saves only by His enlightenment of souls!!!).

Dr. Donald Thorson, Pastor Ralph Spears, Pastor Mark Dankof, Pastor John Erickson:  June 2012 in Chetek, Wisconsin.

Dr. Donald Thorson, Pastor Ralph Spears, Pastor Mark Dankof, Pastor John Erickson: June 2012 in Chetek, Wisconsin.

     Marcion’s heresies only served to intensify the challenges to orthodoxy. As a contemporary of Valentinus, he posited the existence of two (2) gods. One was the good, ultimate Father; the other was the alien God who was also the malignant God of the Jews. Marcion forced Christians to draw up their first New Testament canon as a result of his acceptance of only Paul’s writings and a portion of Luke. He simultaneously denied carte blanche, the validity of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures. posing a radical dichotomy between that era and that of the New Testament. Christ was once again, a docetic Christ of the unknown God; a different God from the Demiurge who created the material world and physical bodies. His de facto rejection of the reality of the Incarnation led him to a denial of the doctrine of the second coming of Christ; he also served as a precursor of Sabellian Modalism, with his idea that Christ was only a mode of the Father’s existence, and that He did not really suffer and die.

     Montanus, active during the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-61), further exposed the theological vulnerability of a Church bereft of a fixed canon and sufficiently detailed creedal statements integrated into the daily liturgical life of the Church Catholic. Like Marcion, Montanus had an aversion to Judaism, as well as the notion of a fixed revelation and canon. Emphasizing only the writings of John, he called the church from worldliness to the embrace of an extreme asceticism (including the dissolution and abolition of the institution of marriage), advocated an imminent chiliasm (the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth during a literal 1000 year reign of Christ in Jerusalem), articulated an understanding of the priesthood of all believers which opposed any ecclesiastical authority or hierarchy, opposed the use of art or fixed creeds of any kind in the Church, and most importantly, along with female prophetesses Priscilla and Maximilla, utilized glossolalia, dreams, and visions to proclaim himself the Paraclete’s personal vehicle of progressive revelation to those seeking the will and mind of the Spirit. Montanism served not only as a further impetus for the development of canon and creeds in the Church’s battle with heresy, but as a current warning to late twentieth century Lutherans as well — that those who emphasize the normative character of the Spirit’s supernatural revelation outside of Scripture, who call for the cessation of the use of confessional creeds and liturgy in corporate worship, and who stress a combination of individual subjectivism and authoritarianism in revelation and congregational leadership as being of the Spirit, are leading the sheep into a schismatic, sectarian Sheol, out of which there can be no escape, save in Word and Sacrament, and in the Creeds and Confessions of the Ancient and Reformational Church.

     The fourth major threat to Biblical orthodoxy which would add to the pressure for creedal formulation and adherence, was Monarchianism. It arose as a movement designed to emphasize the oneness of God vis a vis the duality and plurality of gods espoused by both Marcion and the Gnostics. Its desire for monotheistic expression was admirable — its theological confusion about Jesus Christ was concurrently catastrophic, and along with the heresies of Gnosticism and Arianism, would mandate the orthodox creeds of the First Ecumenical Council of Nikko (325), the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381), and the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451). By 451, it can be argued that the foundational Trinitarian and Christological truths based on Scripture were properly explicated, and available for the Reformation’s rediscovery in the sixteenth century, as well as for the rediscovery of the modem Church mired in the ruins of relativism and existentialism. It can also be argued that these intellectual theological rediscoveries take on their best practical and spiritual significance for the Church, when employed again and again as creedal confessions in corporate worship and apologetic defense of the Faith.

     There were two (2) types of Monarchianism. The first was Dynamic Monarchianism or Adoptionism. Its falsehoods would reappear later in history in the theology and Christology of modem liberals like Friedrich Schliermacher, Albrecht Ritschl, Adolf von Harnack, and John A.T. Robinson. In this view, Christ is adopted as God’s Son, but is not essentially God. Christ then becomes a moralistic example of God’s will and desires for humanity, with pithy sayings and concerns for the poor. He ceases to be the Christ of Nikko who is homoousion (of the same essence) with the Father, and the Lamb of God in the context of propitiation and substitutionary atonement. The adoptionistic Christ of Theodotus the Tanner (late second century) and Paul of Samosata (200-75), only a supernaturally endowed mere human, preserves the unity of God by sacrificing the deity of Christ. The rejection of this apostasy by Nikko and Chalcedon must be renewed again by today’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, employing confessing creeds in corporate worship against the recycled militant adoptionism of twentieth century liberalism — the prevalent Christology of a dying, modem world.

     The second type of Monarchianism was Modalistic Monarchianism or Modalism, first advocated by Praxeus. It equated Christ and the Father as being the same. Instead of sacrificing the deity of Christ as Adoptionism did, it jettisoned the Personhood of both Christ and the Holy Spirit. In denying that Christ was a distinct Person vis a vis the Father, but only a mode or aspect of the Father Himself, Modalism abandoned the doctrine of the diversity of Persons within the Godhead, losing the concept of Christ as Advocate before God the Father (I John 2:1). If Christ, not being a distinct Person, cannot really represent us before the Father, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is removed from legitimacy as the key ingredient in redemptive history. Modalism also produces a docetic Christ, since Christ as only a mode of the Father, could only appear to be a man.

Mark Dankof in the Christ Lutheran Seminar Room:  Computer and Video Screen for Lecture Charts and Visuals for Amos 8, Habbakuk 3, Revelation 2-3, Daniel 9 and the 70 Weeks.

Mark Dankof in the Christ Lutheran Seminar Room: Computer and Video Screen for Lecture Charts and Visuals for Amos 8, Habbakuk 3, Revelation 2-3, Daniel 9 and the 70 Weeks.

     Its confusion of Persons with Essence in regard to Christ’s oneness with the Father (John 10:30; 14:9), needed to be clarified by Nicaea and Constantinople to preserve Christ’s Personhood, Advocacy, and Atonement, at the same time that Modalism’s rejection of Christ as lesser aeon(Gnosticism) and supernaturally endowed mere human (Adoptionism), were affirmed by orthodoxy.

     The fifth and final ancient threat to confessional orthodoxy that will be considered here, was Arianism in the fourth century. It revealed the insufficiency of the Apostles Creed in completely explaining the relationship of the Son to the Father. Arianism, more powerful in the East than the West, denied that Christ is eternally begotten, and claimed that He is first begotten of the Father. In this view, Christ is a semi-divine being created. not begotten by the Father and having an origin in time, or at least a definite beginning before the creation of the material world.

     Arius came out of the rigorist, monastic movement in Egypt, and spent much time in Alexandria, home of a theological school that stressed the deity of Christ. Unfortunately, Arius was profoundly influenced by Lucian of Antioch, who followed Paul of Samosata in emphasizing the exclusive humanity and human will of Jesus. Arius coopted Lucian’s view of the Logos as an intermediate, created, spiritual being between God and humanity, and argued that the Logos was higher than any other created being, but still a creature Himself and different in essence from the Father. Arius taught of a “time when the Logos was not”, equated begetting with creating, stated that the Logos had a body but not a soul, and that the Son was not worthy of divine worship as is the Father, but is merely the ktisma teleion (Perfect Creature) through whom all other things were made.

     Arianism insisted that Christ did not possess deity by nature, but developed it by virtue of His constant and growing moral unity with God. He is our Savior only in the sense that He presents us with divine truth and furnishes a perfect example of commitment to the good. If the created Logos develops into deity, Arius opens the door to the possibility of other created, contingent beings partaking of divinity through evolution toward moral perfection and conformity to divine truth. Here lies the seeds of a Christology and anthropology consistent with humanism, Mormonism, the New Age movement, the works righteousness of medieval Roman Catholicism, and some of the extreme ascetic tendencies in aberrant charismatic/Pentecostal movements.

The Logos, the Word Who Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us, Eternally Begotten of the Father, of the Same Substance (homoousios) as the Father.

The Logos, the Word Who Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us, Eternally Begotten of the Father, of the Same Substance (homoousios) as the Father.

     Arianism was rejected by Nicaea (325) and even more roundly so at Constantinople (381). Especially between 361-81, the Son, and derivatively, the Holy Spirit, were deemed to be of the same essence as the Father, but also as distinct Persons, avoiding the twin dangers of tritheism and modalism. Oneness of nature/essence and the distinct, yet equal existence of Persons had been articulated together as a packaged foundation of orthodox Trinitarianism and Christology.

     This package, and the history surrounding its development, would serve the Church to the present moment in time.

      Names like Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers, Ambrose of Milan, and Augustine, all contributed to the orthodox derivation from Scripture of “One Essence, Subsisting in Three Persons.” The Athanasian Creed (450??), the Western world’s greatest statement on the Trinity, would put it this way:

This is the catholic (universal) faith, that we worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the Persons nor dividing the substance.

     Ecumenical creeds and canonical Scripture thus became mandated as components in the liturgical forms employed in the worship life and apologetic defense of the Faith inherent in the ministry of the Ancient Church Catholic and Militant. Failure to employ them today 1) elevates individuality and subjectivism above the historic experience of the Church Catholic in time, as well as Scripture itself; 2) presupposes an irrelevancy in that which is time tested through the centuries; 3) assumes that Greek, Hebrew, and Latin express theological truth only in the context of their immediate culture and era of usage; 4) insinuates that theological truth is not immutable but evolutionary in nature; and 5) holds as orthodox the naive belief that ancient Christological and Trinitarian controversies will not reappear as renewed threats to the faith delivered once unto the saints (Jude). These dangerous five (5) assumptions mirror the Ancient Five (5) of Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism, Monarchianism, and Arianism, as cancers growing within the shrinking remnant Church today. A truly Lutheran and catholic worship life centered in Christ, Scripture, history, objectivism, and apologetics, is our first, last, best, and only line of defense in the waning days and twilight of the Church Age, before the dawning of the Blessed Eschaton itself.