Category Archives: Biblical Theology/Doctrine

A Free Seminary-Level Course on the Reformation

Justin Taylor: “Thanks to the generosity and permission of Carl Trueman and The Master’s Seminary, you can basically take Professor Trueman’s course online for free.”
You can find the details and the videos at the link below.
A Free Seminary-Level Course on the Reformation

Watch an Entirely Free, Seminary-Level Course with Carl Trueman on the Reformation

I have posted below the heart of the course syllabus, along with all of the lectures, filmed at The Master’s Seminary in January 2017.

Over at the Evangelical History blog, I have posted Professor Trueman’s bibliography for further reading.


Description

This course will introduce student to the major ideas, personalities, and events that shook Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It will consist of lectures and guided reading.

The focus will be on the development of Protestantism in its social, political, and cultural contexts, starting with Luther and the late medieval background and tracing the story through to the birth of modernity in the seventeenth century. En route, the student will study primary texts, art work, Reformation popular culture, and pastoral practices in early modern Protestantism.

In addition, the course is designed to help students to think critically about the past in a way which allows them to think critically about the present. Men and women make history, but they do not make the history that they choose; and only by examining the past forces that shaped the present can we understand ourselves, the world in which we live, and thus mount any response to the challenges that face us today.


Learning Goals

At the conclusion of the course, each student should be able to:

  • Recognize the key personalities, controversies, and theological developments which marked the Reformation.
  • Distinguish between the various historic Christian traditions in terms of their distinctive theological convictions as formulated during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  • Articulate ways in which social and cultural contexts shaped the way the church developed during the Reformation.

Textbooks and Reading Schedule 

Students are expected to obtain a copies of:

The numbers appended below to Janz refer to the selection, not the page.

Schaff III is the third volume of P. Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (free pdf).

The readings from Lindberg are not synchronized with the lectures; they are merely a suggested timetable for taking you through the whole book by the end of the course.

1. Medieval Background and Martin Luther

2. Martin Luther

 3. Martin Luther

 4. The Birth of the Reformed Church

  • Janz 30-37
  • The Sixty-Seven Articles of Huldrych Zwingli (in Schaff III)
  • Lindberg, Chapter 7

5. Geneva and Calvin

  • A Reformation Debate: Sadoleto’s Letter to the Genevans and Calvin’s Reply
  • Lindberg, Chapter 8

 6. The Spread of Lutheranism and the Reformed Faith

7. The English Reformation

8. Reading the Reformation

9. The Catholic Reformation

10. Seventeenth Century Developments: Reformed Confessionalism

11. Seventeenth Century Developments: Internal Catholic Conflicts

12. The Birth of Modernity

  • Lindberg, Chapter 15

 

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How can we determine what doctrines are essential and what are they?

John MacArthur of Grace to You presents his view of the essential doctrines of the faith:

To begin with, the strongest words of condemnation in all the New Testament are aimed at false teachers who corrupt the Gospel. Therefore the Gospel message itself must be acknowledged as a primary point of fundamental doctrine.

But what message will determine the content of our gospel testimony? The biblical message of instantaneous justification through faith alone-or a system of rituals and sacraments that are supposed to convey grace to the participants with no guarantee of ultimate salvation? What authority will we point people to? The Scriptures alone-or a papal hierarchy and church tradition? Those two gospels are flatly contradictory and mutually exclusive.

All these considerations determine what message we proclaim and whether that message is the authentic Gospel of true Christianity. Therefore we are dealing with matters that go to the very heart of the doctrines Scripture identifies as fundamental.

Can we get more specific? Let’s turn to Scripture itself and attempt to lay out some biblical principles for determining which articles of faith are truly essential to authentic Christianity.

View article →

What Is Sound Doctrine?

Scott Swain of Ligonier Ministries weighs in on the importance of believers receiving, confessing and following sound doctrine.  He writes:

When I was young, I only thought of my future: Whom would I marry? What vocation would I pursue? Where would I live? Now that I am the father of four children, I think only of their futures.

As he approached the final days of his ministry, the Apostle Paul set his thoughts on the future well-being of Timothy, his “beloved child” in the faith (2 Tim. 1:2). He wrote to him about the things that matter most for life and ministry. Not only did Paul commend to his young protégé the glorious gospel of God (vv. 8–10) and the divinely inspired Scriptures (3:16–17), but he also instructed Timothy regarding the importance of sound doctrine: “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (1:13–14). According to Paul, doctrine is among the things that matter most for the well-being of the Christian and the church. Sound, or “healthy,” doctrine provides a pattern that, when followed, promotes healthy faith and love. Sound doctrine is a valuable heritage that is to be treasured in this generation and faithfully transmitted to the next (2:2).

What is doctrine? In its basic sense, doctrine is any sort of teaching. The Bible, for example, talks about the teachings of men (Mark 7:7–8), the teachings of demons (1 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 2:24), and the teachings of God (John 6:45; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 John 2:27). Here, we are concerned with divine teaching, the teaching of God. According to one definition, doctrine is teaching from God about God that directs us to the glory of God. This definition provides a helpful anatomy of sound doctrine, identifying doctrine’s source, object, and ultimate end. We will consider these elements of sound doctrine. View article →

Deadly Doctrines: The Pattern and Protection

 

We have learned that the church of every age is plagued by false teachers and their deadly doctrine. We have met seven of those false teachers and seen the devastation they bring. We have identified five tests we can apply to any doctrine to determine whether it is false or true. But this leaves us with some important questions: How does a church come to reject sound doctrine? How do we guard ourselves against false teachers and their deadly doctrines? How do we protect ourselves, our families, and our churches from their seductive lies? Thankfully, God has given us clear guidance in his Word, showing us how churches descend into deadly doctrine and how we may protect ourselves against it.

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False Teachers and Deadly Doctrines

Blogger, author and book reviewer Tim Challies has a new series: Deadly Doctrines. In his first installment he defines what doctrine is and has a helpful table.  He reminds us that, “The Christian’s responsibility is clear: We are to learn God’s truth by searching God’s Word. We must carefully evaluate every teaching according to God’s unfailing standard. What passes the test is sound doctrine, and what fails the test is false doctrine.”

Challies lays out eight terrible consequences of false doctrine.  Discover what those consequences are. He writes:

The heaven tourism fad, there was the best-selling novel that reframed the doctrine of the Trinity. Meanwhile, the largest church in America is led by a man whose platitudes are indistinguishable from fortune cookies. But it’s not just authors and church leaders who are swerving away from the truth. Theologians and laypersons alike are abandoning traditional understandings of manhood and womanhood, of marriage and sexuality. Never has it been more important for Christians to commit themselves to rejecting false doctrine and pursuing sound doctrine, to ensure they are following teachers of truth, not peddlers of error.

In a new series of articles, we will consider false doctrine, sound doctrine, and how to train ourselves to distinguish between them. We will see how God calls us to respond to false and sound doctrine, as well as false and sound teachers. In this opening article, we will briefly define the term “doctrine,” examine the two different kinds of doctrine, and then suggest eight terrible consequences of false doctrine.

View article →

The Five Tests of False Doctrine

T.D. Jakes says that God eternally exists in three manifestations, not three persons. Greg Boyd says God knows some aspects of the future, but that other future events are outside of his knowledge. Creflo Dollar says because we are created in the image of God, we are little gods. Mormonism says God revealed new scripture to Joseph Smith that supersedes the Bible. Roman Catholicism says we are justified by faith, but not by faith alone. This world is a murky madness of true and false. For every doctrine we know to be true, there seems to be a hundred pretenders.

No wonder, then, that John tells us to “test the spirits” and Paul says, “test everything” (1 John 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). It is our sacred responsibility to examine every doctrine to determine if it is true or false. But how can we distinguish sound doctrine from false? How can we distinguish teachers of truth from teachers of error? In our opening article, I said that putting a doctrine to the test is the best way to determine if it is true or false. As we test the doctrine, we learn our responsibility toward it: We either hold to it or we reject it. I am returning to those tests today to explain them in greater detail. They provide a grid that is useful for testing any doctrine.

Read more: The Five Tests of False Doctrine

The Hard Truth About Mike Bickle and IHOP

PROGRAM SEGMENTS:

Examining the Theology and ADMITTED False Manifestations of the Spirit of Mike Bickle and IHOP with Amy Spreeman and Steven Kozar

For further research/articles mentioned on this broadcast:

The Mike Bickle and IHOP Cornucopia of False Teaching, Bridal Weirdness and 24/7 Confusion (includes the videos featured on the show)

What to make of the Francis Chan/IHOP union

Francis Chan’s not afraid of the big bad wolf, says, “I still love Mike Bickle! 

Signs and Wonders” Training Camp for Kids

Is IHOP a cult? Katie’s intern’s story 

NAR Prophets claim the three streams will be one

Ronnie Floyd and IHOP Now Bringing Catholic Track

IHOP-KC’s Mike Bickle on “fake” and genuine Holy Spirit manifestations

Mike Bickle’s open vision about America (VIDEO)

Southern Baptist Convention president to speak at IHOP-KC’s “Onething” gathering?

The Six Hallmarks of a NAR Church

The Bill Johnson Cornucopia of False Teaching, Bible-Teaching and General Absurdity

The Christianity 101 Series on Fighting for the Faith

The Hyper-Charismatic House of Cards: Let It Fall and Be Free

 

Amy Spreeman writes for the Berean Examiner and the blog Berean Research 

Steven Kozar writes for the Messed Up Church and is the “Master Curator” of The Museum of Idolatry

Source: The Hard Truth About Mike Bickle and IHOP

Are all doctrines equal? Or are some primary and others secondary?

As I’m going through the online lessons at Ligonier Connect, the second lesson in the course “Principles of Biblical Interpretation” opens with the teacher, RC Sproul, asking his audience if, after sharing an interpretation of scripture with a person they have ever been confronted with the rejoinder “That’s your interpretation!” Sometimes the person means to give a subtle (or not so subtle) rejoinder that really means, ‘You’re wrong!’ Most often it can mean that the person believes that there are multiple ways to interpret a specific verse or passage of scripture.

There aren’t.

Did you know that the Author of the Bible intended only ONE meaning for each and every passage of Scripture? There is only one way to interpret it and be correct. There are multiple ways to apply the verse, but only one meaning the Author intended.

For example, we know that God is three-in-one. If a person says “I interpret 1 John 5:7-8 as God being three persons in one Being” and the other person says, “No, I interpret that verse as God being only one being but three personalities at any given time,” one of these people would be wrong. One person says you should be baptized by sprinkling and another says you should be baptized by immersion, one of those people are going to be wrong because they are opposite actions. One person says the rapture will come before the Tribulation and the next person says that the rapture will come after the tribulation…well one of those is wrong. They are not both right. Contradictions mutually exclude each other.

Scripture cannot contradict itself.

Sproul said,

The right of private interpretation carries with it the responsibility of correct interpretation. Our interpretation must always be monitored and compared to the collective wisdom of others.

Now, knowing that there is only one correct interpretation of scripture puts more light on the Author than it does on the interpreter, hopefully. We know He intended one meaning. But He is God, and we are not. Because we are sinful human beings, we must approach the interpretation of the scriptures humbly. We use a systematic theology, not Bible Dip, do not strip away the context, we’re not helter skelter or haphazard about it. As noted above, the privilege of being given God’s word comes with it a responsibility to interpret it correctly.

Relying on the collective wisdom of others is also a good idea. God raised up men and women in previous generations who taught, wrote, and interpreted in ways that have remained and remained for a reason. Their works come to us in these newer generations. This is important- it’s not ‘cheating’ to use commentaries or theological tomes of yore that add to our wisdom. We don’t use them to the exclusion of the Bible, but as a supporting method. Secondly, since we do rely on the collective wisdom of others in learning the historic faith, we do not go after the lone outlier who says “I have a new way!’ Or, “I cracked a code no one has ever noticed before!” When the canon closed, so did the availability to interpret wildly new things from it that very from the historical faith.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8).

Thirdly, there are some doctrines with which we must have a settled conviction and do not compromise. These are known as the primary essentials. They are primary because they are salvific. They are essential because the Bible declares them so. Scripture on this point must be interpreted and held dearly among those of the truth faith. These foundational tenets comprise the historical faith.

Other, secondary matters (non-salvific) interpreted differently between two people don’t have to mean that one breaks fellowship over them. If one says baptism is sprinkling and the other says baptism is immersion, well, what they are both saying is they agree that the Bible does present an ordinance of baptism. That much is clear. They just differ on how.

Here is a good link explaining primary essential doctrines. They both are to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, (CARM). This first one is a visual doctrine grid. This one is to an essay explaining each essential doctrine and why they are essential.

Alternately, back when he was a PyroManiac, Phil Johnson wrote about why the distinction between essential and peripheral is doctrines so crucial. He wrote again on how the Bible itself teaches us how to distinguish between primary and peripheral doctrines. Pastor Johnson concluded his essay by saying,

I’m as eager to see evangelical unity as I am to attack ecumenical compromise. But in order to keep the two straight, it is crucial to have clear biblical reasons for treating various doctrines as either fundamental or secondary.

Hence, this post and the links to good resources on the subject.

Happy studying 🙂

Source: Are all doctrines equal? Or are some primary and others secondary?

10 Things You Should Know about the Lordship Salvation Controversy

Your first response to this title may well be: “What controversy?” One doesn’t often hear much any more about the so-called “Lordship Salvation” controversy, but it is most assuredly an issue that needs to be addressed.

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The Story Of Redemption

The Tabernacle was the mobile dwelling place of God–a tent covered in skin. When Jesus came, the Apostle John tells us that “He tabernacled among us.” Jesus is the enfleshed, mobile dwelling place of God. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

Nothing serves to strengthen our faith so much as seeing the various patterns which God has woven into the pages of Scriptures in order to form a beautiful tapestry of His redeeming grace in Christ. It is not uncommon for theologians to refer to the meta-narrative, or the story of Scripture, as they seek to highlight the organic Christological connectivity of God’s revelation in the Bible. Over the years, I’ve sought to share some of the biblical theological insights that I have gleaned from Scripture and from many of the great theologians of church history. While there are so many rich redemptive-historical connections to be made in Scripture, here is a digestion of some of what I have personally found to be the most spiritually stimulating redemptive-historical meditations from Scripture–combined with a few historical references:

  • At creation, the Triune God looked back over His newly made world and pronounced it “good.” In the work of redemption, Jesus looked back over all that He had accomplished and proclaimed, “It is finished.” William Blaikie captured this so well when he wrote: “That cry with a loud voice, ‘It is finished,’ immediately before He resigned His spirit into His Father’s hands, was in many ways most significant. It indicated the feeling of the Redeemer surveying His work from the close, corresponding to the feeling of the Creator when He saw everything He had made, and, behold, it was very good.”1
  • As the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of creation–bringing new life out of the darkness–so He overshadowed the virgin Mary to knit together a human nature for the Son of God to take to Himself in order to bring about the new creation. Sinclair Ferguson elucidates the mystery of the Spirit’s work in creation and redemption in the following way: “It is an amazing, supernatural miracle; but like God’s great works–creation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection–done safe from men’s prying eyes. He brings light out of darkness. He brings His Son into the dark womb of a virgin.”2
  • At the creation of man, the Lord breathed the breath of life into him–making him a living being (Gen. 2:7). At the inauguration of the new creation, Jesus breathed the Spirit of life into His people–making them spiritually living beings (John 20:22).
  • As God put Adam to sleep and created a bride for him out of his side, so God put Jesus to sleep in death and took a bride for Him out of His pierced side. Matthew Henry drew out this parallel when he wrote: “Adam was a figure of him that was to come; for out of the side of Christ, the second Adam, his spouse the church was formed, when he slept the sleep, the deep sleep, of death upon the cross, in order to which his side was opened, and there came out blood and water, blood to purchase his church and water to purify it to himself.”3
  • Eve seems to have been presented to Adam on the Sabbath Day when he awoke from sleep. So, the bride of Christ, was presented to Him on the first day of the week when he awoke at His resurrection. Jonathan Edwards noted this when he wrote: “When [Adam] was in a deep sleep, Eve was made of his rib. And when he rose from his deep sleep in the morning, and the sun arose, and all things were renewed, he received his beauteous spouse that had been formed of him. She was brought and presented to him in perfect beauty and purity: which represents being of Christ by his death and his obtaining the church by his death…So Christ’s resurrection, when he rose from that death whereby he had purchased the church, was on the sabbath, the first day of the week, the first day of Christ’s immortal life, and the day when he first received what he had purchased by his death.”4
  1. William Blaikie Glimpses of the Inner Life of Our Lord(London: Hodder and Stoughten, 1876) pp. 273-275.
  2. An excerpt from Sinclair Ferguson’s sermon, “Jesus, Name Above All Names: Immanuel.”
  3. Matthew Henry Exposition of the Old and New Testament(London: Joseph Robinson, 1828) vol. 1 p. 12
  4. Jonathan Edwards. (2000). The “Miscellanies”: (Entry Nos. 501–832). (A. Chamberlain & H. S. Stout, Eds.) (Vol. 18, pp. 288–289). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

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Jesus’ Deity and the Early Church

Did the early church believe in the deity of Christ?

Ask your average Muslim, Unitarian, Jehovah’s Witness, or just about any non-Christian skeptic who has read (or watched) The Da Vinci Code, and they’ll try to convince you the answer is noFrom such sources we are told that the deity of Christ was a doctrine invented centuries after Jesus’ death — a result of pagan influences on the church in the fourth century when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion.

Emperor Constantine, in particular, is blamed for being the guy who promoted Jesus to the level of deity, a feat of cosmic proportions that he managed to pull off at the Council of Nicaea in 325. As Dan Brown put it (through the lips of one of his literary characters): “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea. . . . By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable” (The Da Vinci Code, 253).

So how can believers answer such allegations?

The best response, obviously, is to demonstrate from Scripture that Jesus is God. We can be confident that the early church affirmed Christ’s deity (and that we should do the same) because the New Testament clearly teaches that truth. The biblical case can be made from many places. Without going into detail in this post, here is a small sampling of texts that teach the deity of Christ: Isaiah 9:6; Matt. 1:23; John 1:1, 14, 18; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 1:24; 2 Cor. 4:4; Php. 2:6; Col. 1:15–16; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20.

But what about church history outside of the New Testament? Did the early church fathers affirm the deity of Jesus Christ? Or was it only after the fourth century (and the Council of Nicaea) that Christian leaders began to articulate their belief in God the Son?

Though it’s not an exhaustive list, here are 25 quotations from a number of ante-Nicene church fathers demonstrating their belief in the deity of Jesus Christ (with portions underlined for emphasis). These early Christian theologians all lived before the time of Constantine and the Council of Nicaea. As such, they provide incontrovertible proof (from post-New Testament history) that Constantine was not the first person in church history to affirm this doctrine. Rather, the early church embraced the truth that Jesus is God from the time of the apostles on.

1. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 50–117): For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit. (Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians, 18.2. Translation from Michael Holmes, Apostolic Fathers, 197)

2. Ignatius (again): Consequently all magic and every kind of spell were dissolved, the ignorance so characteristic of wickedness vanished, and the ancient kingdom was abolished when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life. (Ibid., 19.3. Holmes, AF, 199)

3. Ignatius (again): For our God Jesus Christ is more visible now that he is in the Father. (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, 3.3. Holmes, AF, 229)

4. Ignatius (again): I glorify Jesus Christ, the God who made you so wise, for I observed that you are established in an unshakable faith, having been nailed, as it were, to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 1.1. Holmes, AF, 249)

5. Ignatius (again): Wait expectantly for the one who is above time: the Eternal, the Invisible, who for our sake became visible; the Intangible, the Unsuffering, who for our sake suffered, who for our sake endured in every way. (Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp, 3.2. Holmes, AF, 265)

6. Polycarp of Smyrna (69–155): Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal high priest himself, the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth . . ., and to us with you, and to all those under heaven who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead. (Polycarp, Philippians, 12:2. Holmes, AF, 295)

7. Epistle of Barnabas (written c. 70–130): If the Lord submitted to suffer for our souls, even though he is Lord of the whole world, to whom God said at the foundation of the world, “Let us make humankind according to our image and likeness,” how is it, then, that he submitted to suffer at the hands of humans? (Epistle of Barnabas, 5.5. Holmes, AF, 393)

8. Justin Martyr (100–165): And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom, has been demonstrated fully by what has been said. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 128. Translation from Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, I:264)

9. Justin (again): Permit me first to recount the prophecies, which I wish to do in order to prove that Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts. (Ibid., 36. ANF, I:212)

10. Justin (again): Therefore these words testify explicitly that He [Jesus] is witnessed to by Him [the Father] who established these things, as deserving to be worshipped, as God and as Christ. (Ibid., 63. ANF, I:229)

11. Justin (again): The Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign, having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin. (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 63. ANF, I:184)

12. Justin (again): For if you had understood what has been written by the prophets, you would not have denied that He was God, Son of the only, unbegotten, unutterable God. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 126. ANF, I:263)

13. Tatian (110–172): We do not act as fools, O Greeks, nor utter idle tales when we announce that God was born in the form of man. (Tatian, Address to the Greeks, 21. ANF, II:74)

14. Melito of Sardis (d. c. 180): He that hung up the earth in space was Himself hanged up; He that fixed the heavens was fixed with nails; He that bore up the earth was born up on a tree; the Lord of all was subjected to ignominy in a naked body – God put to death! . . . [I]n order that He might not be seen, the luminaries turned away, and the day became darkened—because they slew God, who hung naked on the tree. . . . This is He who made the heaven and the earth, and in the beginning, together with the Father, fashioned man; who was announced by means of the law and the prophets; who put on a bodily form in the Virgin; who was hanged upon the tree; who was buried in the earth; who rose from the place of the dead, and ascended to the height of heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. (Melito, 5. ANF, VIII:757)

15. Irenaeus of Lyons (120–202): For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. . . . He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counselor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men; — all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.19.2. ANF, I:449)

16. Irenaeus (again): He received testimony from all that He was very man, and that He was very God, from the Father, from the Spirit, from angels, from the creation itself, from men, from apostate spirits and demons. (Ibid., 4.6.7. ANF, I:469)

17. Irenaeus (again): Christ Jesus [is] our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father. (Ibid., 1.10.1. ANF, I:330)

18. Irenaeus (again): Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spoke to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers. (Ibid., 4.5.2. ANF, I:467)

19. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215): This Word, then, the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was in God) and of our well-being, this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man—the Author of all blessings to us; by whom we, being taught to live well, are sent on our way to life eternal. . . . . . . The Word, who in the beginning bestowed on us life as Creator when He formed us, taught us to live well when He appeared as our Teacher; that as God He might afterwards conduct us to the life which never ends. (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, 1. ANF, II:173)

20. Tertullian (c. 160–225): For God alone is without sin; and the only man without sin is Christ, since Christ is also God. (Tertullian, Treatise on the Soul, 41. ANF, III:221)

21. Tertullian (again): Thus Christ is Spirit of Spirit, and God of God, as light of light is kindled.  . . . That which has come forth out of God is at once God and the Son of God, and the two are one. In this way also, as He is Spirit of Spirit and God of God, He is made a second in manner of existence—in position, not in nature; and He did not withdraw from the original source, but went forth. This ray of God, then, as it was always foretold in ancient times, descending into a certain virgin, and made flesh in her womb, is in His birth God and man united. (Tertullian, Apology, 21. ANF, III:34–35)

22. Hippolytus (170–235): The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God. (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 10.29. ANF, V:151)

23. Caius (180–217) [in response to those who would question the deity of Christ]: Perhaps what they allege might be credible, did not the Holy Scriptures, in the first place, contradict them. And then, besides, there are writings of certain brethren older than the times of Victor, which they wrote against the heathen in defense of the truth, and against the heresies of their time: I mean Justin and Miltiades, and Tatian and Clement, and many others, in all which divinity is ascribed to Christ. For who is ignorant of the books of Irenaeus and Melito, and the rest, which declare Christ to be God and man? All the psalms, too, and hymns of brethren, which have been written from the beginning by the faithful, celebrate Christ the Word of God, ascribing divinity to Him. (Caius, Fragments, 2.1. ANF, V:601)

24. Origen (c. 185–254): Jesus Christ . . . in the last times, divesting Himself (of His glory), became a man, and was incarnate although God, and while made a man remained the God which He was. (Origen, De Principiis, Preface, 4. ANF, IV:240)

25. Novatian of Rome (210–280) For Scripture as much announces Christ as also God, as it announces God Himself as man. It has as much described Jesus Christ to be man, as moreover it has also described Christ the Lord to be God. Because it does not set forth Him to be the Son of God only, but also the Son of man; nor does it only say, the Son of man, but it has also been accustomed to speak of Him as the Son of God. So that being of both, He is both, lest if He should be one only, He could not be the other. For as nature itself has prescribed that he must be believed to be a man who is of man, so the same nature prescribes also that He must be believed to be God who is of God. . . . Let them, therefore, who read that Jesus Christ the Son of man is man, read also that this same Jesus is called also God and the Son of God. (Novatian, On the Trinity, 11. ANF, V:620)

Additional information on this topic can be found in an article from The Master’s Seminary Journal entitled Did Constantine Invent the Trinity?

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Thanksgiving as Theological Act: What Does it Mean to Give Thanks?

Thanksgiving is a deeply theological act, rightly understood. As a matter of fact, thankfulness is a theology in microcosm — a key to understanding what we really believe about God, ourselves, and the world we experience.

A haunting question is this:  How do atheists observe Thanksgiving? I can easily understand what an atheist or agnostic would think of fellow human beings and feel led to express thankfulness and gratitude to all those who, both directly and indirectly, have contributed to their lives. But what about the blessings that cannot be ascribed to human agency? Those are both more numerous and more significant, ranging from the universe we experience to the gift of life itself.

Can one really be thankful without being thankful to someone? It makes no sense to express thankfulness to a purely naturalistic system. The late Stephen Jay Gould, an atheist and one of the foremost paleontologists and evolutionists of his day, described human life as “but a tiny, late-arising twig on life’s enormously arborescent bush.” Gould was a clear-headed evolutionist who took the theory of evolution to its ultimate conclusion — human life is merely an accident, though a very happy accident for us. Within that worldview, how does thankfulness work?

The Apostle Paul points to a central insight about thankfulness when he instructs the Christians in Rome about the reality and consequences of unbelief. After making clear that God has revealed himself to all humanity through the created order, Paul asserts that we are all without excuse when it comes to our responsibility to know and worship the Creator.

He wrote:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. . .  [Romans 1:20-22].

This remarkable passage has at its center an indictment of thanklessness. They did not honor Him as God or give thanks. Paul wants us to understand that the refusal to honor God and give thanks is a raw form of the primal sin. Theologians have long debated the foundational sin — and answers have ranged from lust to pride. Nevertheless, it would seem that being unthankful, refusing to recognize God as the source of all good things, is very close to the essence of the primal sin. What explains the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden? A lack of proper thankfulness was at the core of their sin. God gave them unspeakable riches and abundance, but forbade them the fruit of one tree. A proper thankfulness would have led our first parents to avoid that fruit at all costs, and to obey the Lord’s command. Taken further, this first sin was also a lack of thankfulness in that the decision to eat the forbidden fruit indicated a lack of thankfulness that took the form of an assertion that we creatures — not the Creator — know what is best for us and intend the best for us.

They did not honor Him as God or give thanks. Clearly, honoring God as God leads us naturally into thankfulness. To honor Him as God is to honor His limitless love, His benevolence and care, His provision and uncountable gifts. To fail in thankfulness is to fail to honor God — and this is the biblical description of fallen and sinful humanity. We are a thankless lot.

Sinners saved by the grace and mercy of God know a thankfulness that exceeds any merely human thankfulness. How do we express thankfulness for the provision the Father has made for us in Christ, the riches that are made ours in Him, and the unspeakable gift of the surpassing grace of God? As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15].

So, observe a wonderful Thanksgiving — but realize that a proper Christian Thanksgiving is a deeply theological act that requires an active mind as well as a thankful heart. We need to think deeply, widely, carefully, and faithfully about the countless reasons for our thankfulness to God.

It is humbling to see that Paul so explicitly links a lack of thankfulness to sin, foolishness, and idolatry. A lack of proper thankfulness to God is a clear sign of a basic godlessness. Millions of Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving with little consciousness of this truth. Their impulse to express gratitude is a sign of their spiritual need that can be met only in Christ.

So have a very Happy Thanksgiving — and remember that giving thanks is one of the most explicitly theological acts any human can contemplate. O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting [1 Chronicles 16:34]. In all things, give thanks to God.

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