Christological Heresies

John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

The Christological heresies (concerning the nature or person of Christ) listed below, deny or distort some particular attribute of the person of Christ which was necessary for Him to make eternal redemption for His Bride. Most of them make their full effect by the denial of the person of Christ on the cross, thereby attempting to dismantle His ability to redeem sinful man. In our depravity, mankind will talk in many generalities about Jesus Christ, and even revere him, just so long as He is not the Jesus Christ so clearly revealed in the scriptures.

People often ask, “How much error a person can have and still be saved?” I usually tell them that is the wrong way to approach the matter, a Christian will approach the matter like this, “Having lived in error so long, how much error can I be rid of?” When one considers John 15:26 and Romans 8:9-11, it becomes pretty clear that if a person is saved he will have a right understanding of the person of Christ. If as a new Christian, they have not a full knowledge of these things, yet they will not rebel against them as they are presented.

Rom 8:9-11 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

The Heresies


The heresy of Adoptionism was first introduced in the second century and later revived in the 8th century with the views of Nestorius. It teaches that Christ was not divine at least until after conception, with many regarding the timing to be after his baptism. According to this heresy, Christ was adopted unto Deity, after passing the test of temptation in the wilderness, thus being a man becoming god. With one of the characteristics of God having an eternal existence, adoptionism denies the eternal Sonship of Christ, and ultimately denies the divinity of Christ.


The heresy of the Albigenses was a variation of Dualism and first introduced in the twelfth century by a Catharist sect in the south of France. It teaches that there were two gods, the evil god of darkness of the Old Testament, and the good god of light of the New Testament. In this particular dualistic view, the evil god of the Old Testament actually was Satan, who was purportedly the creator of all things material. Also known as the Bulgarian heresy or Dualism


The heresy originated by Apollinaris, a fourth century bishop, was the teaching that Jesus was a man that did not have a human mind/spirit, but that his mind/spirit was entirely divine. He taught that the divine and human natures of Christ could not co-exist within one person. In this case his teaching had to be justified at the expense of minimizing the human nature of Christ


The heresy originated by Arius of Alexandeder in the early fourth century, was the teaching that as a created being, Jesus was merely a man, and not co-equal with God the Father. He taught that Christ was not one in substance was either the Father or the Holy Ghost. Often considered the most serious of the heresies, it almost overran the visible church shortly after it was introduced, and remains very prevalent today.


The Docetic (Meaning: ‘to appear’) heresy originated in the first century while the apostles were yet alive, and taught that Jesus was not human but merely appeared to be human. By this understanding it means that Christ did not actually suffer temptation in the wilderness, suffer and die on the cross, or rise from the dead.


The heresy of Dualism originated in the fourth century, and teaches that there is a god of light (generally associated with spirit) and a god of darkness (generally associated with the physical). These two gods are equal but opposite, and oppose each other for all time with neither being supreme. The god of light is not able to entirely overpower the god of darkness, and vice-versa. In this situation, evil happens because the god of light is not able to overcome it, rather than evil happens because it is allowed.


The heresy of Ebionism originated in the second century, and similar to Adoptionism denies the eternal Sonship of Christ by teaching that Christ only became divine after his baptism. This heresy divides the life of Christ into pre/post baptism, and even refers to Christ as the son of Joseph. It is a basic continuation of Judaism, exalting the rites and regulation of the Old Testament at the expense of the gospel.


The heresy originated by Eutyches in the early fifth century, teaches that the human nature of Christ was overcome or absorbed by his divine nature. Similar to Monophysitism and Apollinariansim.


The Kenosis (Meaning ‘to empty’) heresy originated in the nineteenth century with Gottfried Thomasius of Germany, and teaches that Jesus gave up some of his divine attributes (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence) while on earth. It is dangerous because, if these were given up it would mean that Christ was not fully divine while on earth, rendering the atonement of none effect.


The heresy originated by Macedonius in the fourth century, teaches that the Holy Spirit was a created being, thus denying the full divinity and person of the Holy Spirit. Also held was that the Son of God was not one in substance with the Father, but only of similar substance, thus denying the person of Christ as well. (AKA ‘Pneumatomachians’-spirit fighters) They had similar beliefs to the Arians.


The heresy originated by Mani in the third century, incorporates Gnostic thought, Zoroastrian dualism, with a heavy Buddhist accent and throws in some Christian ideas for good measure. Manichaesism as a prototypical syncretistic system grew into more than just a heresy and has been considered a religion unto itself, overtaking much of Asia before its disappearance sometime before the sixteenth century.


The heresy of Marcionism originated in the third century, and teaches a variation of dualism. According to Marcionism, the God of the Old Testament is a god of law and justice, and cannot be the same God as revealed in the New Testament. This heresy causes its adherents to minimize or even reject the Old Testament scriptures and is alive and well today amongst Modernism.


The heresy of Modalism originated in the third century, and teaches that God is a single person who has manifested himself in three persons throughout history. In the Old Testament God was manifest as the Father, during the time of the incarnation of Christ God was manifest as the Son, and after the ascension God was manifest as the Holy Spirit. Though it does not deny the divinity of Christ nor the three persons of the Trinity, yet it teaches that the three persons never co-exist at the same time. It is similar to Sabellianism


The heresy of Monarchianism originated in the second century, and teaches that there is only one god manifest in one person, God the Father. Monarchianism denies the divine persons of both the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and was an errant attempt at defending monotheism against the rising heresy of Tritheism.


The heresy of Monophysitism originated in the fifth century, and teaches that Jesus had only a divine nature, and did not have a human nature. To deny the human nature of Christ is to deny the true incarnation of God as man, and produces similar results to Docetism.


The heresy of Monothelitism originated in the early seventh century, and teaches that Jesus had only one will. It arose out of a disagreement with the Monophysites regarding the nature of Jesus. Though correctly agreeing that Jesus had two natures (divine and human) Monothelitism incorrectly placed its emphasis on the two natures having a singular will. If this was the case and the will was divine, Christ could not have actually been tempted in the wilderness; if the will was only human Christ would have the same desire for sin that a natural man has.


The heresy originated by Nestorius in the fifth century, teaches that Jesus was two distinct persons as well as had two distinct natures. This heresy brings no end of problems, culminating in: Which one died on the cross?


The heresy of Patripassionism originated in the third century, teaches that the Father took on human flesh and suffered on the cross, and in this view it is a form of Modalism. A variation of Patripassionism is that God the Father suffered along with God the Son on the cross.


The heresy of Quietism became popular in the seventeenth century having it roots many centuries earlier, and teaches that intellectual stillness and contemplative prayer, along with annihilation of ones will are all that is necessary for salvation. Quietism denies that the atonement is necessary for salvation, and extends itself into the Buddhist nirvana idea of salvation through self-mortification.


The heresy originated by Sabellius in the third century teaches that god is a single person capable of manifesting himself as either Father, Son, or Holy Spirit at any given time. It has similar characteristics to Modalism with the exception that the particular person of the Godhead is not limited to manifesting himself in a particular time period, but is able to manifest himself as all three instantaneously yet not simultaneously.


The heresy of Socinianism (AKA Psilanthropism) originating in sixteenth century Poland, teaches that Jesus was just an extraordinarily good man, not divine in any way. They also teach that God is only a single person, that the Holy Spirit is just the power of God (not a separate person), the annihilation of the wicked, and the corresponding denial of an eternal fiery hell.


The heresy of Subordinationism originated in the first century and teaches that Christ and the Holy Spirit are not co-equal with God the Father, but are subordinate to Him, with some also holding to the subordination of the Holy Spirit to Christ. This in essence destroys the unity of the singular Godhead making lesser gods of the Son and the Holy Spirit.


The heresy of Tritheism originated in the second century and teaches that in the Godhead there are three separate gods, instead of one God in three persons. It comes from a misunderstanding of the Trinity, which man cannot fully comprehend without light from the Holy Spirit. It is a common reaction by monotheistic groups upon the hearing of the pure doctrine of the Trinity to believe it is polytheistic, and yet the proper doctrine of the Trinity is monotheistic.

Now compare to the biblical position


There is a single omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God eternally co-existing in three co-equal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, commonly known as the Trinity. As individual persons, each one has a will, can reason, can feel independently; and as a single God the three distinct persons work perfectly harmoniously in things like the creation and redeeming the souls of men.

Hypostatic Union-

In the person of Jesus Christ is the perfect merging of God with man, making Him the God-man. Man likes to add and in this case the units will not add up correctly (100% God +100% Man=200% ?), whereas God multiplies, (100% God x100% Man=100% God-man). The scriptural requirement of the propitiatory sacrifice was that it could only be achieved by the 100% God-man, with anything else falling short of that requirement.

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