Over the centuries, several explanations have been presented about the relationship of Jesus, Christ, and the Son of God. Some of these views follow.
1. Adoptionism. According to the Adoptionists, Jesus was a full flesh and blood human, but at some point in his life, usually at his baptism, but also at his conception or resurrection, God the Father adopted Jesus as his Christ and Son. Jesus was not divine by nature. Paulianists are an example of Adoptionists.
2. Separationism. According to the Separationists, Jesus was born as a man. However, at some point, usually at his baptism, God the Son, Christ, entered Jesus and empowered him. Thus, Christ was the God nature, and Jesus was the human nature. Just before the crucifixion, the God nature, Christ, left the human nature, Jesus. Valentinians are an example of Separationists.
3. Docetism. According to the Docetists, Jesus was completely divine; he was God himself. Thus, Jesus was not really human; he only seemed human. Moreover, he did not really die or suffer on the cross; he only appeared to have suffered. Marcionites are an example of Docetists.
4. Patripassianism or Modalistic Monarchianism. According to the Patripassianists, Jesus was one of the three manifestations or modes of God; the other two manifestations were the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus, Jesus was God himself because God is unipersonal. Jesus was the incarnation of God. For Patripassianists, God himself came to earth as Jesus Christ and suffered on the cross. Sabellians are an example of Patripassianists. Today, Oneness Pentecostals represent Patripassianism.
5. Creationism. According to Creationists, Jesus was specially created as the Son of God and Christ before his conception — usually God’s first creation. Jesus was this preexisting being incarnated, and this preexisting being is usually thought of being to Jesus what the soul is to other men. In any event, he is not eternal and is subordinated to the Father. The Christ of the Creationists is neither deity nor human; he is a super-angelic being. Arians are an example of preexisting Creationists. Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses represent Creationism.
6. Begottenism (for want of a better term). According to Begottenism, Jesus had only one nature: human; he was never divine or had a divine nature. He was born a man, lived as a man but without sin, died as a man, and was resurrected a man. Jesus is literally the Son of God, i.e., God is his father, who is miraculously endowed and exceedingly divinely inspired far beyond any prophet with an extremely close relationship with God. Jesus came into being when God begot him in the womb of Mary to be his Messiah. The divinity of the Son is that of the Father residing in him and acting by him. Although Jesus only has a human nature and never has a divine nature, some Begottenists believe that he was deified whereas other reject this notion. A major difference between Begottenism and Adoptionism is that Begottenists maintain that Jesus was begotten as the Messiah; he was the Messiah from conception. Most Adoptionists believe that God adopted Jesus as the Messiah after he was born. Photinians and Socinians are examples of Begottenists. Today, Christadelphians represent Begottenism.
7. Humanism. Jesus is just a man, a “mere” man, the son of Joseph, albeit an extraordinary man. He lived an righteous life, whose example and teachings should be followed. Apparently, he has no more of a special relationship with God that any other man. He was just another holy man like Zoroaster, Buddha, and Mohammed. Naturally, he is void of any divinity. Today, Unitarian-Universalists represent Humanism.
Note: Both Monophysites and Dyophysites, which follow, are Nicaean Trinitarians. They believe in three Gods, yet not three Gods, but one God. As stated in the Athanasian Creed, “So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.”
7. Monophysitism. According to the Monophysites, Christ, the Incarnate Word, had only one nature: either divine or a composite nature of the human and divine, i.e., Miaphysitism. Related to Monophysitism was Apollinarianism, which maintained that the divine Logos functioned as the mind of Christ, who possessed a real, imperfect human body. Today, Monophysitism as Miaphysitism survives in the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Also, Monophysitism is found in liberation theology.
8. Dyophysitism. According to the Dyophysites, Jesus is fully human and fully God. He possesses two natures, human and divine, in one person, without confusion of substance. That is, Jesus is 100 percent human and 100 percent God united in one person without any confusion of the two natures. Dyophysitism is the doctrine of Orthodox Christianity. It is expressed in the Athanasian Creed as follows: “Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.” Closely related to the Trinitarians are the Nestorians, who also believe the Nicaean Trinitarian Creed; however, they rejected the doctrine of “Mary the Mother of God” and were thus declared heretics. Nestorians were also condemned for declaring that Jesus had two natures: divine and human. Nestorianism survives today in the Assyrian Church.
Except for Monophysitism, Patripassianism, and some interpretations of Dyophysitism and most followers of Humanism, all of the above Christologies maintain a supreme God who is eternal, immortal, immutable, and impassible. Because Monophysites, Patripassianists, and some Dyophysites have God suffering and even dying on the cross, their God is not eternal (the eternal cannot die), immortal (although he comes back to life), immutable, or impassible (an impassible being cannot suffer). Obviously, two different Gods are being worshiped. One God is eternal, immortal, immutable, and impassible; the other is mortal, mutable, and passible.
Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Coley Allen.
More religious articles.