Christianity’s Doctrinal Issues in Muhammad’s Time (37)

These lessons (4 to 6 ) are a continuation of the previous article regarding doctrines affecting the Muslims’  belief in strict monotheism which runs counter to the Church’s belief in the Trinity.

4.  Docetism – from the Greek verb dokeo which means “to seem or to appear.” Some first and second-century Christians who were influenced by Greek thought believed that Jesus was real and fully God, but he only seemed to be human.  His humanity, it was said, was an illusion.  They could not accept that God who is spirit could partake of material existence.  Believers of this idea were called Docetists.

However, those people would not be consistent if they consider Genesis 3 where we find the record of Satan, a spirit being, a created cherub (Ezekiel 28:12-19), who became or appeared in the form of a material snake and curled itself in the tree at the Garden of Eden.  This spirit being that became material tempted Eve and made her pick the forbidden fruit. That made humanity fall into sin and made this world cursed.

5.  Arianism – This is derived from the chief promoter of this idea who is Arius, a Christian teacher in Alexandria, Egypt in the first half of the 4th century.  This belief says that the only absolute, self-existing, eternal, uncreated being is God and that refers to the Father.  The Father could not share his being, his essence, his nature to any other person.  Christ was the highest of God’s creation, according to Arius. He was created, had a beginning, and is not of the same essence as the Father but of similar essence as the Father, hence inferior to the Father.  There are attributes of the Father that are assigned to Christ.  Arius argued that Christ “bears these titles only because he participates in the word and wisdom of the Father.” (See Erickson, Christian Theology, page 696).

Emperor Constantine the Great convened a general council which was attended by about 318 church bishops that met in the year 325 A.D. in the town of Nicaea in the northern part of what is now the country of Turkey.  This council was co-chaired by Bishop Hosius of Spain. There were only three other bishops that voted against the doctrine that Christ is Divine and has the same essence as the Father.

6.  Apollinarianism – This is the idea taught by Apollinarius, bishop of Laodicea, a contemporary and friend of Athanasius.  Apollinarius believed that the Word became flesh (John 1:14), but Jesus was not completely human.  To him, it was illogical that Jesus Christ was completely God and completely human in a unity of one person.  Yes, Jesus became flesh, but he didn’t possess the ordinary human mind, soul, reason that animate humanity, he claimed.  That which animated Jesus’ humanity is the Divine Logos, he said.

Other general councils and the main issues taken up are the: (a) Council of Constantinople in Asia Minor (now Turkey) in the year 381 A.D. which tackled the person and divinity of the Holy Spirit,  (b) Council of Ephesus, still in Asia Minor in the year 431 A.D. which discussed the Fall of Man with a conclusion that with the Fall of Adam and Eve, man that is born of woman is totally depraved, and (c) Council of Chalcedon in the year 451 A.D. which discussed the co-mingling of humanity and divinity in the one person of Christ.

These doctrines continued as topics of interest among Christians in the coming centuries. #

(More to follow.)