How could this have happened?
In the beginning I would ask myself how could the church have such a fundamental error in its doctrine? And it is a valid question and I will attempt to answer that question. The Bible itself tells the story of how the Jewish people of that day persecuted believers in Christ. And obviously the early church suffered a high number of martyrdom. Not exactly sure how many Christians were killed at the hands of the Jews of that day. But if the number was high enough in the number of leaders were killed faster than their replacement then I can see how some of the original teaching might be lost. Although it is a possibility there are no definite numbers of the rate of leadership being killed and the rate of replacement teachers. But God has always had a remnant, the church has always grown rapidly under persecution. During the time of the early church there were Gnostics who came in and tried to pervert the gospel. And it looks like they were being somewhat successful, because the apostles had to address these lies that were creeping into the church.
The phrase “and the Word became flesh, and dwelt amongst us” is generally seen as being against docetism, a belief that many Gnostics held that the human nature of Jesus was illusory, as the Perfect Saviour inherent in a Christ could not partake in the inherently corrupt (according to gnosticism) nature of matter. Also, the opening phrase is generally understood as being against Arianism, a 4th century sect of Christianity, later branded as heretical, which asserted that there was a time previous to Jesus’ existence.[i]
The Gnostics did not believe that Jesus had a human nature, so they rejected that part of it and said it was only an illusion. They believe that Jesus came and looked like a man but was not really a man. So what the Gnostics were trying to do was to take away his humanity completely and say it was just an illusion. What I believe happened was that the Gnostics understood that the apostles made it very clear that if you are to the deny that Jesus came in the flesh that that was not of God.
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1Jo 4:3 KJV)
But what I understand is that the Trinitarian doctrine says Jesus is 100% man and 100% God. But that doesn’t make sense, how can God be 100% a created being? How can God make himself less than who he is? What I think is happening is that the Gnostic view is being married to the original view that Jesus is a man. Because there is no way to get around this verse in 1 John 4:3 they had to come up with something to stay in accordance with this verse and the idea that he is God Almighty. Let us look at the verse objectively, John does not in this verse explaining that Jesus is God, or that Jesus is one of the three beings that consist of God. Why is John only concerned with Jesus being recognized as truly being in the flesh, and not clarifying that he is also God. As I said before there must always be a clarification by the apostles for the doctrine of the Trinity, when they speak of God or Jesus. This is another one of those thorns in the doctrine of the Trinity. Nowhere in this verse is the Trinity clarified or explained or even hinted at. I think that is because it’s not supposed to be in there, the apostle did not write concerning the tri-unity of God because there is no tri-unity of God. All we can gather from this verse is that anyone who does not acknowledge that Jesus was a flesh man is not of God. Now if the apostle John was a Trinitarian you would think you would write the verse like this
“and every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh and is also God is not of God”
This would be a more clear way of explaining the Trinity and the fact that he must be acknowledged as come in the flesh. That is the way it should be in a Trinitarian world. But it is not that way, and there are many examples like this where there are omissions of acknowledging the Trinity that go completely ignored. One reason could be that they did not hold the doctrine of the Trinity and may not have even known about it and did not feel the need to address something that did not exist.
I believe that the Trinitarian doctrine is part of the doctrine of Gnosticism. Was interesting is if you look at the early church fathers there was a lot of Gnostic ideas even in the early church fathers. What I believe has happened is that the early church took the writings of the early church fathers in Scripture as well as the Bible. And what happened was that that is evolved into the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church use the writings of the early church fathers to base their doctrine on. As we examine some of the early church fathers writings we can see glimpses of the Catholic Church doctrine. Among those church doctrines is the doctrine of the Trinity.
Clement promotes reconciliation of all and no wrath on the wicked
let us look stedfastly to the Father and Creator of the universe, and cleave to His mighty and surpassing great gifts and benefactions of peace. Let us contemplate Him with our understanding, and look with the eyes of our soul to His long-suffering will. Let us reflect how free from wrath He is towards all His creation (The Ante Nicene Fathers, vol. I, p. 10, chap. XIX)
Clement promotes fables
Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed. (The Ante Nicene Fathers, vol. I, p12)
Polycarp promotes alm as a way to escape death
When you can do good, defer it not, because “alms delivers from death”.( Polycarp’s epistle to the Philippians)
Irenaeus promotes virgin Mary
And if the former did disobey God, yet the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness (advocata) of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience. (The Ante Nicene Fathers, vol. I, book V, chap. XIX, 1.)
Irenaeus adds to the Word of God
All therefore speak falsely who disallow his (Adam’s) salvation, shutting themselves out from life for ever, in that they do not believe that the sheep which had perished has been found. For if it has not been found, the whole human race is still held in a state of perdition. False, therefore, is that man who first started this idea, or rather, this ignorance and blindness – Tatian. (The Ante Nicene Fathers, p. 457, book III, chap. XXIII, 8.)
Ignatius promotes the bishop as God on earth
Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. (The Ante Nicene Fathers, vol. I, p. 90, chap. VIII, entitled “LET NOTHING BE DONE WITHOUT THE BISHOP”)
He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a man is not pure in his conscience (epistle to the Trallians)
As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters (epistle to the Magnesians)
your bishop presides in the place of God (epistle to the Magnesians)
Now the more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself (epistle to the Ephesians)
Irenaeus promotes the church of Rome as a superior church
Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority
(The Ante Nicene Fathers, vol. I, book III, chap. III)[ii]
What I see happening is that right after Jesus ascended into heaven, and abundance of heresies flooded the church trying to derail the success of the true doctrine. And apparently it successfully integrated itself into what is now known as the Catholic Church. So early on in the churches forming there were these early church fathers who had control of the church leadership. And they had doctrines that were not the same as the original apostles. So those things like the bishop should be considered God and the stories of the Phoenix are not part of God’s teaching. This is why you see the Pope he considered God on the earth, it is because of the early church fathers taught that. But we also know that God always has a remnant that hold the truth and live right before God. Which is why I believe God has you reading this book right now. Search for yourself the early church fathers held to doctrines that grew into what is now the Catholic Church model of serving God. And we can see the obvious errors in these doctrines today. But the one that has survived to this day is still the Trinitarian doctrine. Now as you can imagine some of the Christians did not follow the errors of the main leadership. And there was a constant arguing and battle over doctrine in the centuries following the death of the apostles. This was because the apostles had the authority to confirm or deny a doctrine. But after they died anyone and everyone wanted to be recognized as the authority or judge in the apostles place. If you would like to read about the early church fathers and some of the doctrinal errors encourage you to go to this website http://www.cogwriter.com/irenaeus.htm
Now the church that still held to the doctrines that the apostles were teaching, they were a minority. But the battle over the doctrine continued unto the Nicene Council. And I think what was happening during this Nicene Council was that the battle over the Trinity doctrine and the non-Trinitarian doctrine which would be Arianism was coming to a head.
The First Council of Nicaea was the first ecumenical council of the Church. Most significantly, it resulted in the first, uniform Christian doctrine, called the Creed of Nicaea. With the creation of the creed, a precedent was established for subsequent local and regional councils of Bishops (Synods) to create statements of belief and canons of doctrinal orthodoxy— the intent being to define unity of beliefs for the whole of Christendom.
The council settled, to some degree, the debate within the Early Christian communities regarding the divinity of Christ. This idea of the divinity of Christ, along with the idea of Christ as a messenger from God (The Father), had long existed in various parts of the Roman empire. The divinity of Christ had also been widely endorsed by the Christian community in the otherwise pagan city of Rome. The council affirmed and defined what it believed to be the teachings of the Apostles regarding who Christ is: that Christ is the one true God in deity with the Father.
Derived from Greek oikoumenikos (Greek: οἰκουμένη), “ecumenical” means “worldwide” but generally is assumed to be limited to the Roman Empire in this context as in Augustus’ claim to be ruler of the oikoumene/world; the earliest extant uses of the term for a council are Eusebius’ Life of Constantine 3.6 around 338, which states “σύνοδον οἰκουμενικὴν συνεκρότει” (he convoked an Ecumenical Council); Athanasius’ Ad Afros Epistola Synodica in 369; and the Letter in 382 to Pope Damasus I and the Latin bishops from the First Council of Constantinople.
One purpose of the council was to resolve disagreements arising from within the Church of Alexandria over the nature of the Son in his relationship to the Father; in particular, whether the Son had been ‘begotten‘ by the Father from his own being, or created as the other creatures out of nothing. St. Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius claimed to take the first position; the popular presbyter Arius, from whom the term Arianism comes, is said to have taken the second. The council decided against the Arians overwhelmingly (of the estimated 250–318 attendees, all but two agreed to sign the creed and these two, along with Arius, were banished to Illyria). The emperor’s threat of banishment is claimed to have influenced many to sign, but this is highly debated by both sides.[iii]
So what we see here is that the church had grown and was accepted by the Roman Empire. And the church now had the ability to bully any other faction of the church that did not agree with their doctrine. The first and foremost reason for the Council was to end the non-Trinitarian view in the church. Along with this we have an Emperor who is threatening anyone who does not sign will be banished from the Roman Empire. Now to know about you but I think that’s unfair and possibly put the Christians of that time in a posit ion that they did not know how to handle. They were now being persecuted by their own brothers in the church against the doctrine that they have held and believe that there apostles held. It probably didn’t know what to do with that surprise ambush decision under threat of banishment. Either way those in power prevailed and had the Nicene Creed ratified, which is the Trinitarian creed that Trinitarian’s today use as evidence because it has been around since 338 A.D. and neglect to inform people of the circumstances in which the Nicene Creed was created.
What did the non-Trinitarian view of Jesus look like? I believe it is the same teaching that the apostles wrote about in the New Testament. And I believe that it was carried on through the church up to this point of the Nicene Council. It was such a big deal that they had all the church in the known world participating to straighten out this issue. It was not because one man named Arius came on the scene and began teaching something foreign. There was a problem within the church in Alexandria and it must have been an issue that big enough that needed to influence the rest the church worldwide. Because it is my opinion that the rest of the church worldwide had some believers that believed what the early church fathers taught about Jesus, and others the more traditional apostolic view of Jesus. So it was not just the church in Alexandria but the churches worldwide needed a definite answer to the question, but as we know the leadership was Trinitarian and the votes went to the Trinitarian doctrine under threat of banishment. Now the Bible says that you shall know them by their fruits do we see Jesus in employing any of these tactics of threatening the free will of a person? Did Jesus threaten the 70 that left following him with damnation if they went ahead and left? No Jesus did not give that example. So apparently the part of the church the believe that Jesus was not God appointed a man named Arius to be their spokesman and representative, which is why they now coined the term Arianism as a way of identifying it with one heretical person. If they can call it something other than the doctrine of the apostles it sounds less credible. Which is why when I teach people the word of God the automatically want to know and my Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon or church of God or some other known religion to stereotype me and my teaching. If they can just say “Oh he’s just a Jehovah’s Witness” people were automatically dismiss me on the stereotype alone, but I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness. And for the record I am not a Mormon or church of God or any of those kinds of religions. I identify most with the Baptist understanding until I came to realize that Jesus is not God through my own studying. No man on earth taught me this understanding of the Bible is my personal belief that it is a revelation given from God. I’m not calling myself in apostle or a prophet or any of those things but I do believe that God has revealed this to me in very plain and definite terms.
So Arius is the poster boy for the apostolic teaching of Jesus. And as we know he lost that debate with only two votes out of 300+ going to him.
Arius taught that God the Father and the Son did not exist together eternally. Arians taught that the pre-incarnate Jesus was a divine being created by (and therefore inferior to) God the Father at some point, before which the Son did not exist. In English-language works, it is sometimes said that Arians believe that Jesus is or was a “creature”, in the sense of “created being”. Arius and his followers appealed to Bible verses such as Jesus saying that the father is “greater than I” (John 14:28), and “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work” (Proverbs 8:22). The latter quote has provided some controversy because it is technically speaking of wisdom. However, many people, notably Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe that the wisdom in this proverb symbolizes Jesus Christ because he is later described in a similar way. On the contrary, the verse “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) delivers the Homoousian doctrine.
Of all the various disagreements within the Christian Church, the Arian controversy has held the greatest force and power of theological and political conflict, with the possible exception of the Protestant Reformation. The conflict between Arianism and Trinitarian beliefs was the first major doctrinal confrontation in the Church after the legalization of Christianity by the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Licinius.
Controversy over Arianism arose in the late 3rd century and persisted throughout most of the 4th century. It involved most church members—from simple believers, priests and monks to bishops, emperors and members of Rome’s imperial family. Such a deep controversy within the Church during this period of its development could not have materialized without significant historical influences providing a basis for the Arian doctrines. Some historians define and minimize the Arian conflict as the exclusive construct of Arius and a handful of rogue bishops engaging in heresy; but others recognize Arius as a defender of ‘original’ Christianity, or as providing a conservative response against the politicization of Christianity seeking union with the Roman Empire. Of the roughly three hundred bishops in attendance at the Council of Nicea, only two bishops did not sign the Nicene Creed, which condemned Arianism. However, to minimize the extent of the movement ignores the facts that at least two Roman emperors, Constantius II and Valens, became Arians, as did prominent Gothic, Vandal and Lombard warlords both before and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
Lucian of Antioch had contended for a christology very similar to what would later be known as Arianism and is thought to have influenced its development. (Arius was a student of Lucian’s private academy in Antioch.) After the dispute over Arianism became politicized and a general solution to the divisiveness was sought—with a great majority holding to the Trinitarian position—the Arian position was officially declared heterodox.
Arianism thrived for several decades, even within the family of the emperor, the imperial nobility, and higher-ranking clergy. But, by the end of the 4th century, Trinitarianism prevailed in the Roman Empire. In western Europe, Arianism, which had been taught by Ulfilas, the Arian missionary to the Germanic tribes, was dominant among the Goths and Lombards (and, significantly for the late Empire, the Vandals); but it ceased to be the mainstream belief by the 8th century. It was crushed through a series of military and political conquests, culminating in religious and political domination of Europe over the next 1,000 years by Trinitarian forces in the Catholic Church. Trinitarianism remained the dominant doctrine in all major branches of the Eastern and Western Church and later within Protestantism until modern times.[iv]
[i] Gnosticism and the New Testament. (2013, April 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:35, April 16, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gnosticism_and_the_New_Testament&oldid=549155363
[ii] http://www.watchmanscry.com/forum /showthread.php?t=1124
[iii] First Council of Nicaea. (2013, April 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:40, April 17, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=First_Council_of_Nicaea&oldid=550558682
[iv] Arianism. (2013, April 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:15, April 17, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Arianism&oldid=549082252