Heresy in the Early Church: Christian History Infographic - Sifting Through the Christ Controversies
Many distinctions they made are difficult to translate into English. Still, all parties agreed on one thing: God is impassible, that is, he not subject to change or feelings. But how do you combine this with the Scriptures that imply Christ “became” human and suffered?
In particular, Christians argued passionately about two things:
Is Jesus Divine or Human?
· Christ Is Fully Divine!
Most of these people were driven by the conviction that only God can save humankind. Thus they were willing to protect the deity of Christ, even at the expense of his humanity, or in the case of the modalists, at the expense of the Trinity of persons.
Docetists, e.g., Gnostics: The divine Christ would never stoop to touch flesh, which is evil. Jesus only seemed (dokeo, in Greek) human and only appeared to die, for God cannot die. Or, in other versions, “Christ” left “Jesus” before the Crucifixion.
Key text: Phil. 2:8: “ … and [Christ] being found in appearance as a man … ”
Apollinarians: Jesus is not equally human and divine but one person with one nature. In Jesus’ human flesh resided a divine mind and will (he didn’t have a human mind or spirit), and his divinity controlled or sanctified his humanity.
Key text: John 1:14: “The Word became flesh” [and not a human mind or will].
Modalists, a.k.a. Sabellians: God’s names (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) change with his roles or “modes of being” (like a chameleon). When God is the Son, he is not the Father. There is no permanent distinction between the three “persons” of the Trinity, otherwise you have three gods.
Key texts: Ex. 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before me” and John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.”
· Christ May Be Special, But He’s Not Divine!
These people took seriously the Gospels’ portrait ...