Today’s Evangelicals have their own share of heresies that they insist are true Christian doctrines ranging from their obsession with sola scriptura, to their worship and unconditional support of the modern Nation of Israel. In this post however, we are focusing on three false doctrines that Evangelicals teach others that are rooted in paganism or ancient heresies and thus should not be taught as this is only spreading false doctrines.
1. Teaching that Jesus IS the father God.
The Trinity doctrine is something that we should not try to teach unless we are in full understanding of what it is and honestly it is beyond our human understanding. One thing that we do know is that Jesus prayed to God, because God is NOT Jesus and Jesus is NOT the father God. They are not the same exact being. While Jesus is the son of God, He is divine, He was NOT created like us by God, and He is therefore of the same or even similar substance and essence as God. but He is NOT God the father. Look at what the Nicene creed says:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light: true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried; And arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures; And ascended into the heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; Who proceedeth from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets. In One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the age to come. Amen.
Teaching that Jesus IS God is a heresy. In the early Church this was called Sabellianism. The early Church fathers wrote of this heresy:
And some of these assent to the heresy of the Noetians, and affirm that the Father himself is the Son, and that this (one) came under generation, and suffering, and death. – Hippolytus of Rome, Refutation of All Heresies (Book VIII), Chapter 12
Sabellius…blasphemes in saying that the Son Himself is the Father and vice versa. – Saint Dionysius
Yes, Jesus is our Lord, He is King, He is like God in that He is eternal. He is divine, yet human and took upon himself our humanity in order to undo what Adam had done.He is however NOT God the Father and this is something that should not be taught to others as it is reviving an ancient heresy.
2. Stop Teaching Others that God wrathfully punished Jesus
This one is, in the view of many who dislike Christianity, is paganistic and they are correct, it is. This doctrine is refuted by a simple reading of Psalm 22 (see Psalm 22 Did God Forsake Jesus on the Cross) as well as an understanding of Christian history and early Church doctrine (see Problems with Calvinisms Penal Substitution Atonement). Ideas that God wrathfully punished Jesus in our place have been handed down to us from paganism. And not all, and certainly not the majority, of Christians today believe this. For example the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection are the atonement, not just His death. Western views of the atonement that subscribe to appeasing God’s wrath by Jesus’ death are pagan in origin:
As I researched the subject, I discovered an essential aspect of the sacrificial system described in the Old Testament: the outer act of sacrifice should reflect the inner state of the offerer seeking personal reconciliation with God. The goal of the sacrifice was to gain interior cleansing and change of heart, not to change God. This contrasts with the pagan view, in which the efficacy of the sacrifice is not at all dependent on the state of the individual offering it. Its purpose is not to change the state of the offerer, but to appease and change the deity… [the pagan] goal has a materialistic and utilitarian motivation; its goal is not to gain interior change, healing or love, but instead to gain control over other people and objects.
When Orthodox read a verse like ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3), it is understood to mean that Christ died for us – to heal us, to change us, to make us more godlike – not that He died instead of us. The ultimate purpose of His death is to change us, not to avert the wrath of God. – Father James Bernstein, Antiochian Orthodox Church
So if you are teaching that Jesus was punished by God for our sins, please stop. Nothing in early Christian history backs this doctrine. Just because Calvinists and Evangelicals have claimed this doctrine is the gospel for the last few hundred years does not make it true. After all, there are 1,500 more years of Christian history that existed before this idea came on the scene in Christianity that refutes it.
3. Stop Teaching Others that we are born sinful – there is no free will.
This is a big issue for many, because people have free will. For example Muslims dislike Christianity because they believe we do not teach free will. Yet if they knew that this is a core early Church teaching it would be far easier to attempt to convert them to Christianity. In What Everyone Should Know About Islam and Muslims, a convert to Islam, Suzanne Haneef, writes:
… The notion of Original Sin is one which Islam emphatically denies, affirming that every human being comes into the world innocent and sinless. Accordingly, he will be held accountable only for what he himself inscribes upon the unblemished tabula rasa of his nature, not for what his ancestor Adam (or anyone else whosoever) did or did not do …. Hence, to attribute to God, the Forgiving and Merciful, His laying upon each new-born infant the intolerable burden of a sin committed by his remotest ancestor would appear to be a denial of His unquestionable attributes of justice, mercy, kindness and compassion toward His creatures. And to further claim that the taint of this sin is certain to put every human being into Hell for all eternity unless the Deity sacrifices Himself for His creatures whom He is able to, and should if He is indeed Just and Merciful, forgive, is a denial not only of His unfailing justice and good-will toward His creation but also, it would seem, of His wisdom, logic and reasonableness.
First from a Christian perspective it should be noted that while Evangelicals love this doctrine, it is another form of Calvinism known as Total Depravity, and hence as such is not an early Church doctrine. This idea of original sin as Total Depravity was adopted in part from Augustine (4th c A.D) but further developed into a heresy by Calvin thus making it only about 500 years old.
The Reformed understanding of the Fall derives from Augustine’s interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Augustine assumed that Adam and Eve were mature adults when they sinned. This assumption led to a more catastrophic understanding of the Fall. However, Augustine’s understanding represented only one reading of Genesis and was not reflective of the patristic consensus. Another reading of Genesis can be found in Irenaeus of Lyons, widely regarded as the leading Church Father of the second century. Irenaeus believed Adam and Eve were not created as fully mature beings, but as infants or children who would grow into perfection (Against the Heretics 4.38.1-2; ANF Vol. 1 p. 521). This foundational assumption leads to radically different theological paradigm. John Hick, in his comparison of Irenaeus’ theodicy against that of Augustine, notes:
Instead of the fall of Adam being presented, as in the Augustinian tradition, as an utterly malignant and catastrophic event, completely disrupting God’s plan, Irenaeus pictures it as something that occurred in the childhood of the race, an understandable lapse due to weakness and immaturity rather than an adult crime full of malice and pregnant with perpetual guilt. And instead of the Augustinian view of life’s trials as a divine punishment for Adam’s sin, Irenaeus sees our world of mingled good and evil as a divinely appointed environment for man’s development towards perfection that represents the fulfilment of God’s good purpose for him (1968:220-221).
Many Calvinists may find Irenaeus’ understanding of the Fall bizarre. This is because Reformed theology, like much of Western Christianity, has become so dependent on Augustine that it has become provincial and isolated in its theology.
One of the key aspects of the doctrine of total depravity is the belief that the Fall deprived humanity of any capacity for free will rendering them incapable of desiring to do good or to believe in God. Yet a study of the early Church shows a broad theological consensus existed that affirmed belief in free will. – Plucking the TULIP (1) – An Orthodox Critique of the Reformed Doctrine of Predestination
It is true that the early Church did not teach Total Depravity or loss of Free Will:
“Let some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever occurs happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Now, if this is not so, but all things happen by fate, then neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it is predetermined that this man will be good, and this other man will be evil, neither is the first one meritorious nor the latter man to be blamed. And again, unless the human race has the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions.” -Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.)
“We were not created to die. Rather, we die by our own fault. Our free will has destroyed us. We who were free have become slaves. We have been sold through sin. Nothing evil has been created by God. We ourselves have manifested wickedness. But we, who have manifested it, are able again to reject it.” -Tatian (120-180 A.D.)
“There is, therefore, nothing to hinder you from changing your evil manner to life, because you are a free man” -Melito (2nd century)
“But man, being endowed with reason, and in this respect similar to God, having been made free in his will, and with power over himself, is himself his own cause that sometimes he becomes wheat, and sometimes chaff.” -Ireneus (130-202 A.D.)
“I find, then, that man was constituted free by God. He was master of his own will and power…For a law would not be imposed upon one who did not have it in his power to render that obedience which is due to law. Nor again, would the penalty of death be threatened against sin, if a contempt of the law were impossible to man in the liberty of his will…Man is free, with a will either for obedience or resistance.” -Tertullian (160-225 A.D.)
Evangelicals will cite text in the Bible such as Genesis 6:5 which says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”, yet Genesis 6 goes on to disprove Total Depravity as it says that Noah was righteous and blameless in his generation. Romans 3:10 is cited as well as it states that there is, “none righteous, not one.” The context, however, shows that Paul was showing that the Jews can not claim superiority over the gentiles because they had the law, thus, they were more righteous. In others words, Paul was saying none of us can claim righteousness, with Law or not, all are in just as much need of Jesus as anyone else. Thus, Paul was not saying that we are born sinful or that because of such we can not choose to love God, choose to follow, choose to not sin and so on.
Like the Calvinist doctrine of Penal Substitution, that God punished Jesus for our sins from #2 above, Total Depravity is rooted in paganism which was handed down to us in some way by Augustine’s concept of original sin that was later expanded into Total Depravity by John Calvin not so long ago in Christian history. So again Evangelicals are teaching a pagan doctrine that is related to ancient heresies. And being such this is another one of those doctrines that are not universal to Christianity and should not be taught as such by Evangelicals attempting to proselytize to Muslims or anyone else as they are spreading false doctrines in doing so.
Given the bad history in the Church at times and the fact that Evangelicals seem to know very little about early Church history, which is why they end up reviving ancient heresies, As one convert to Islam and then to Eastern Orthodoxy stated in an interview with Ancient Faith Radio, he did not see any value in western Christianity, in other words Islam was more correct:
Kevin: So why was Christianity George, not even an option or of interest to you?
George: I didn’t see any value in the brand of Christianity that was readily available to me. Whether it was the images of the TV evangelists jumping and hollering, telling people that they can buy their way into the Kingdom or the constant hypocrisy and self righteousness of people I encountered every day. I didn’t see Christianity had anything to offer me or anyone else for that matter. Then there were the problems I had with the Christian theology, as I understood it as that time. The Holy Trinity was just too confusing, the crucifixion and the western understanding of the atonement, seemed like nothing more than just a scapegoat in order to make people feel better about their own shortcomings and to just let them off the hook, from having to make any effort to change their lives in a profound way.
Kevin: What specifically attracted you George though to Islam?
George: Well it appeared to offer some absolutes that I was in search of, the discipline. The theology I can more easily wrap my mind around. Historically it didn’t seem to have the baggage of Christianity that has almost become with, such as slavery, racism, bigotry, the crusades, the inquisition and the general intolerance that Christians have been accused of having through out the centuries. –Ancient Faith Radio, Islam: Through the heart and mind of a convert to Orthodox Christianity – Part 1, Interview with a convert named George who became a Sunni Muslim at age 14 and studied to become an Imam at a madrasa, studying Quran, Arabic language, Islamic theology, hadith, and jurisprudence. He left Islam and became an Orthodox Christian 20 years later (emphasis mine)
Evangelicals are severed from the Churches that hold Apostolic succession and teaching. As such, they often teach, even innocently, heresies to others. An Evangelical Christian should research history and doctrine of what they themselves have been taught before spreading heresies to others.