Truth Matters Newsletters – January 2011 – Vol. 16 Issue 1 – Christological Confusions – By Rev. Robert Liichow
Discernment Ministries International
Rev. Bob Liichow
In the last few weeks Discernment Ministries International has received emails expressing concern over our belief in the Trinity of God. One would think that after two thousand years of biblical study and scholarly debate questions about the nature of the godhead would have been satisfactorily answered. The truth is they have been. The Church Catholic (universal) has been united in the following belief:
Whoever wills to be in a state of salvation, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith, which except everyone shall have kept whole and undefiled without doubt he will perish eternally. Now the Catholic Faith is that we worship One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is One, the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. (1)
The orthodox Christian Church worships one God in Three Persons. I italicized the word person because our finite human language breaks down in many of our attempts to express eternal and timeless truth. Nonetheless, “person” is an adequate term to use because the word “person” is used to describe the three members of the Godhead because the word “person” is appropriate. A person is self-aware, can speak, love, hate, say “you,” yours,” “me,” “mine,” etc.
Each of the three persons in the Trinity demonstrate these qualities throughout the scriptures. The Bible is very clear concerning the fact that there is but One God yet is seen operating as Three within the One. The Father is not the same person as the Son; the Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not the same person as the Father. They are not three gods and not three beings. They are three distinct persons; yet, they are the one God.
One of the recent emails excoriating DMI was regarding our declaring Mr. William M. Branham a heretic and telling people that he was a “Oneness” believer. The person writing us was partially correct in their diatribe by stating that Branham was not a member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the WORLD (PAW) or the Apostolic Pentecostal Church; both Oneness denominations. They were correct in that Mr. Branham denounced all denominations as being of the great whore Babylon and was a member of none. However, Mr. Branham and all his followers deny the reality of the Trinity. A fellow truth-teller and Apologist Eric Pement wrote the following concerning Branham’s view on the godhead:
From his earliest days, Branham rejected the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. He thundered, “Trinitarianism is of the Devil! I say that THUS SAITH THE LORD.” Branham insisted that the Trinity doctrine originated with Satan, and that it taught there were “three gods.” Therefore he directed that any believer who was baptized according to the triune formula given in Matthew 28:19 should be rebaptized “in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Branham generally described the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as being three “titles,” offices,” attributes,” or “merits” of God. The problem with this explanation is that titles, offices, attributes, or merits cannot relate to one another on a personal level. (2)
I have written many articles about Mr. Branham and they can be read on our website or by visiting our BLOG which has all of the extant Truth Matters for your viewing pleasure. This being the case let me just mention Branham again briefly for those who are newer readers and may be unfamiliar with some of the background of this Arch-heretic.
Branham is probably one of the most widely followed revivalists of our era. He was killed by a drunk driver in the mid 1960’s. At the time of his death Branham’s popularity had taken a huge downward spiral. He had taught too many bizarre teachings and uttered various strange prophetic words that were simply too much for the mainstream Pentecostals to swallow. So at the end of his life, his revival meetings dwindled in size. Sadly, Branham was one of the first men to really utilize technology in his meetings. The result was that we have virtually all of his revival sermons on audio and many hours on 16mm tape. Branham is almost single-handedly responsible for the creation of the ten thousand plus independent charismatic congregations.
Branham’s warning to leave denominationalism almost destroyed the Assemblies of God (AOG) denomination due to the fact they lost of many of their pastors! After his death he became mythic in stature largely in part due to the other revivalists who tried to raise him from the dead for several days after his car accident! Men like Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborn, A.A Allen, Gordon Lindsey lauded and praised this man at his funeral as the greatest prophet of their generation. The end result? Today there are over 20,000 web sites dealing with this heretic. Hundreds of Branhamite congregations (aka groups) which do nothing but listen to his past sermons, watch him on video and read about him and spread his message!
Naturally, this Bran Amite (3) felt led to correct my views both on Mr. Branham and the Trinity of God. He failed in both arenas because there was nothing to correct regarding my understanding of both topics.
What Did Branham Believe About the godhead?
In a nutshell Branham believed nothing unique or new about God, in fact, he bought in an ancient heresy (unbeknown to him, Branham had less than an eighth grad education). Branham and the Oneness Pentecostals believe in “Jesus only.” Their churches are known among other Trinitarian Pentecostals as Jesus Only churches. Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Son and Jesus is the Holy Spirit, there is no God but Jesus Christ, He is the One God.
Even though this ancient heresy was soundly rebuked, defeated and anathematized (declared a soul damning heresy) time and time again by The Church it still has persisted. Without going over eras of church history suffice it to say this heresy was virtually dead until 1913.
The Azusa revival of 1906 was already slowing down by 1913 and it was during a revival meeting in Los Angeles in 1913 that whipped things up again. This time a Canadian man named R.E. McAlister began to re-baptize converts in Jesus name only. This initially brought some confusion and debate. McAlister and his followers broke off from their fledgling Pentecostal brethren and took steps to formalize their doctrinal stance. The result was that today the fastest growing Pentecostal denominations are the Oneness Pentecostals which include the following organized groups: United Pentecostal Church International (UPC), Apostolic World Christian Federation, Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW). (4)
Within two years this reincarnation of ancient heresy was solidified into specific beliefs. Some of these beliefs included the need to be baptized by immersion in Jesus name only. This is a prerequisite to salvation, you must be baptized in Jesus name. What is more you must speak in other tongues as proof of having obtained full salvation. Thrown into the mix is a mishmash of Wesleyan holiness (works) and a firm belief that they are the only true Church.
Their Ancient Error
Several heretics arose in the early Church (there really are no “new” heresies per se). The “Jesus only” heresy is attributed to Sabellius, who taught a form of this doctrine in Rome in the third century. The Lord raised up as the chief opponent of Sabellianism a man named Tertullian, who labeled the movement “Patripassianism,” from the Latin words patris for “father”, and passus for “to suffer” because it implied that the Father suffered on the Cross. Sabellius, Praxeas, Noetus all fell into the error of “modalism” which simply means God takes upon Himself “modes” or simply appears in different forms but is the same and One God.
The Monarchians properly so-called (Modalists) exaggerated the oneness of the Father and the Son so as to make them but one Person; thus the distinctions in the Holy Trinity are energies or modes, not Persons; God the Father appears on earth as Son; hence it seemed to their opponents that Monarchians made the Father suffer and die. In the West they were called Patripassians, whereas in the East they are usually called Sabellians. The first to visit Rome was probably Praxeas, who went on to Carthage some time before 206-208; but he was apparently not in reality a heresiarch, and the arguments refuted by Tertullian somewhat later in his book “Adversus Praxean” are doubtless those of the Roman Monarchians. (5)
This error denies the individuality within the godhead and no doubt came about in an attempt to secure the place of deity for Jesus Christ. However in their attempt “making” Jesus to be God they veered off into error.
I asked the writer several simple valid questions which he refused to answer. In fact, when you encounter a Oneness dupe I would urge you to consider asking some of these same questions found on the following page.
Some challenging Questions To Ask The Arians at Your Doorstep and other Places
1. Is Jesus His own Father?
2. If Jesus’ will and the Father’s will were identical, then why did Jesus express the desire to escape the cup but resigns Himself not to His own will, but the will of the Father? See my article on this.
3. Was Jesus praying to Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane? If so, why?
4. If Jesus was praying to the divine side of Himself, then isn’t He still praying to Himself?
5. Why was Jesus not saying, “Not My will, but MY will be done?” if there is only one person and one will involved when He was praying in Luke 22:42 & Matt. 26:39 ?
6. If baptism is essential for salvation, then what happens to someone who repents of sin, accepts Jesus as Savior, walks across the street to get baptized but is killed by a car. Does he go to heaven or hell?
A. If he goes to heaven, then baptism isn’t a requirement is it?
B. If he goes to hell, then faith in Christ isn’t sufficient to save him is it?
7. If God is only one person, why did Jesus say in John 14:23, “If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” If God is only one person, why does Jesus say, “we”?
They have no adequate biblical response in attempting to answer these questions. Within Pentecostalism there has been a debate as to whether or not their Oneness compatriots are in fact Christians. I can answer that question very easily no debate necessary. NO! These people are guilty of preaching another Gospel [see 2 Cor. 11:4]. They present a system of works righteousness from the beginning to the end. Obviously they proclaim another Christ [see 2 Cor. 11:4] and if you are wrong regarding the Person and work of Jesus, then frankly, it matters not what one is right about. Lastly, they advance another spirit [see 2 Cor. 11:4] who is not the Holy Spirit as revealed in Scripture. How sad to go to church and worship someone you really do not know, and more importantly does not know you!
The second type of email to challenge DMI’s Trinitarian stance came from the other side of the heretical Christological morass of delusion, i.e. that Jesus is not God at all.
There were several heretics involved in attempting to mislead the church, time and space permit only touching on a few of the “bigs.” The following people taught more or less the same error with some subtle nuances that are unimportant to this discussion. These deceived deceivers taught that Jesus was the first created being by the Father. Thus in their system the godhead consists of God the Father period. Jesus is His first and greatest creation and the Holy Spirit is simply the spirit of the Father God. To them Jesus is not God, nor is the Holy Spirit.
Arius is probably one of the best documented of the heretics of this stripe. His beliefs can be boiled down to the following statement:
Using Greek terms, it denies that the Son is of one essence, nature, or substance with God; He is not consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father, and therefore not like Him, or equal in dignity, or co-eternal, or within the real sphere of Deity. (6)
The views of Arius were sounded defeated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Almost 1,200 years later another somewhat similar error erupted in the 1500’s called “Socinianism” so named after the two brothers whom espoused this aberrant doctrine. They taught the following:
Socinianism denies the doctrine of the Trinity claiming it denies the simplicity of God’s unity. Instead, God is a single person with the Holy Spirit as the power of God. Since it emphasizes the unity of God, there could be no divine and human union in a single person as Christ. Therefore, Socinianism denies the incarnation and deity of Christ as well as Christ’s pre-existence…Since Jesus is not divine by nature, His sacrifice was not efficacious; that is, it did not result in the redemption of people who would trust in it, it teaches that Jesus was only a man. (7)
Socinianism furthermore denies the efficacy of infant baptism, the reality of eternal damnation in hell, opting for annihilation of the wicked. To these people the Bible is only authoritative as properly understood [rationalism] by themselves.
Monophysitism was another heretical attempt to wrest Christ from the godhead. Monophysitism is heretical because of its erroneous assertions that the nature of Christ had only one nature, not two as is taught in the correct doctrine of the hypostatic union (Jesus is both fully God and fully man). The problem here is the same as concerning the above views:
The denial of the human nature of Christ is a denial of the true incarnation of the Word as a man. Without a true incarnation there can be no atonement of sin for mankind since it was not then a true man who died for our sins. (8)
Fortunately, this view was defeated at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681 A.D. Even though it was defeated by the Church and shown to be a heretical view it still exists today. What is more is that you have probably encountered the descendants of Arius and the Socinian brothers!
Today the most vocal voice spewing Arian heresy is the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Within the first few minutes of conversation they will deny that the Trinity exists, they will deny that Jesus is God the Son from all eternity. They will tell you that Jesus is the first and highest creation of Jehovah, as such He is referred to as a “son” but He is a created being. There is a vast amount of research material available free of charge on our website and the internet on how to answer the J.W.’s when they come knocking on your door.
Another popular group in America which holds forth Arianism along with other cultic beliefs is the Unitarian Universalist Church. Sadly, a purely American invention. Fortunately one that does not have a tremendous impact, unlike the J.W.’s who are very busy (after all their salvation depends on it).
Within the same week DMI received emails espousing these two heretical views of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is apparent that people outside the major cult groups (J.W.’s etc.) are beset with damnable ignorance about the biblical Jesus. This is ignorance the Church banished hundreds of years ago!
People historically have erred concerning whether Jesus was divine or not. Some exalt Him to being the only True God, others say He is n o God at all. If this was not confusing enough there is another category of error DMI has yet to be asked about, that being, the heresy regarding the two natures of Christ.
Monothelitism attempted to avoid the apparently unsolvable question of whether Christ had two natures, one human and one divine, or only one nature. Rather it placed the focus on stating that the nature(s) had only one will and one operation, although, still Christ was defined to have two natures. Nestorius, a priest is often sited as an originator of this error. By the Third Council of Constantinople, where the idea of Monothelitism was debated ended with declaring Christ with two wills and two operations, both together in the body of Christ.
Eutychianism is similar to Monophycitism. It states that Christ’s natures were so thoroughly combined — in a sense scrambled together — that the result was that Christ was not really truly able to relate to us as humans. The problem is this implies that Jesus was not truly God nor man. Therefore, He would be unable to act as mediator and unable to truly atone for our sins. (9) We don’t encounter many folks like this proclaiming to be Christians today. This mis-belief is an ancient one that the Apostles encountered taught by the Docetists. They taught that Jesus only “appeared” to be a man, that He was really God and thus His sufferings were just an illusion, etc…
Tritheism is what the Orthodox Church is accused of by the ignorant and unlearned. This is the concept of three gods, distinct, yet in union. All the cults and Islam in particular declare we worship a three-headed god or worse yet, three distinct gods.
Jesse Duplantis in his book Heaven, Close Encounters of the God Kind, which book DMI has thoroughly debunked and proven this work to be both plagiarized and a blasphemous document [AGAIN CHECK OUR BLOG FOR THESE ARTICLES ON DUPLANTIS & HIS LIES].
While allegedly in the throne room of heaven, Jesse on his face just takes a quick peek into the events before his eyes! He declares to his angel guide that He saw the father’s feet (no man can see God and live, right?), he saw Jesus preaching in the throne room (hmmm isn’t Jesus “God” saw him and lived). Then Jesse says to his angel guide “I see the Father, I see Jesus, but where is the Holy Spirit?” His angelic guide “oh Jesse, He is on earth!” Immediately Jesse said he felt so stupid for even asking the question!!! This man is followed by millions! His book is in many languages and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies! Yet he is a liar, false teacher, thief, and a deceiver who does not know the God of the Bible.
It is easy to see how the unregenerate can fall into accusing us of worshipping three gods especially when we tell them that the Father is God, Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God, these three are the One God — their minds go TILT. Three persons, each “God” how can that not be three gods? The answer is simple — because God has given us His Word and in it we clearly see three divine persons and yet a uniform testimony of the fact that here is but One God.
Can we fully understand the nature of the godhead? No, and honestly, I doubt we ever will fully understand everything about God a billion years from now. What I do have is God’s Word and my role as a disciple is to bow my pride and hugely vast intellect [lol] to the authority of His Word and renew my mind to its sublime truths and to teach others the truths contained therein by example and rhetoric.
In closing I would urge our readers to consider beginning the new year off by boning up on some of the foundational doctrines of our faith because it is here, at the foundation, that the cultists attack. Here are a few good books to consider for your library. As always, I advise anyone to go to www.abebooks.com and try to buy these tomes used. ♦
Copyright © 2011 Robert S. Liichow
Some Titles to Consider
1. A Summary of Christian Doctrine Edward W.A. Koehler
2. Know What You Believe, Paul E. Little
3. How to read the Bible For All It is Worth Dr. Gordon Fee
4. Systematic Theology, Millard Ericson
1. The Athanasian Creed, underlining and bold type added for emphasis.
2. Obtained from http://www.midwestoutreach.org/journals/branham_tree.html on 01-06-11
3. DMI over the years have received several emails regarding Mr. Branham. It seems part of his followers ministry is to scour the internet and challenge all who dare doubt “prophet” Branham.
4. What is amazing and telling about the history of American Pentecostalism is that after the Azusa revival 4 main divisions fissured almost immediately. The AOG & COGIC (Church of God in Christ) are Trinitarian in doctrine, but split over racism. The AOG being virtually all white and COGIC being all black. Then within the heretic modalist group also split into 2 branches, again based on race and not doctrine. So much for “Holy Ghost love” and “union.”
5. Obtained from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10448a.htm on 01-06-2011
6. Obtained from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01707c.htm.
7. Obtained from http://carm.org/socinianism on 01-07-2011
9. Obtained from http://www.experiencefestival.com/