Christ and the Logos

In the second and third centuries widely divergent views of the relation of Jesus to God were put forward, even by those who regarded themselves as being within the Catholic Church.

A group of these convictions centred on the identification of Christ with the Logos. Not all those who made that identification agreed as to precisely what it implied. Some, including the convert, Justin Martyr, whom we have earlier mentioned, whose spiritual pilgrimage had led him through Greek philosophy to Christ, and who had become acquainted with views of the Logos which were akin to those taught by Philo, held the Logos to be "the second God." To be sure, Justin Martyr's Christian faith led him to an affirmation which was not to be found in Philo, that the Logos was incarnated in an historical individual, Jesus Christ, for the salvation of men. Yet the Logos which had become flesh in Jesus Christ, while not different in kind from God the Father, was a second God.

On the other hand, Irensus held that the Logos which became incarnate in Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the Mind of God, and was the Father Himself. In contrast with those against whom he especially argued, the Gnostics with their belief that Christ was a phantom, not man, and the Marcionites, with their particular form of dualism, Irensus stressed his conviction that Jesus Christ was both man and God, fully man and from the beginning the incarnation of the Logos, that in Jesus God Himself suffered for men (who deserved nothing from Him), and that at the same time Jesus as man at every stage of his life, by what is known as recapitulation, or "summing up," perfectly fulfilled what God had intended man and His entire creation to be, and so, as representative of man, won for man the right to be recognized by God as having met His demands.

Irensus is representative of a trend which, in reacting against the thinly veiled polytheism of the Gnostics and the two gods of the Marcionites, emphasized the unity of God. That trend, possibly reinforced by other factors, in some of its extreme forms known as Monarchianism, formulated a conception of the Trinity which was eventually condemned by the Catholic Church as untrue. Monarchianism was, in general, an attempt to stress monotheism against those who would make Jesus Christ, as the incarnation of the Logos, a second God, or would solve the problem presented to Christian thought by the belief in God the Father and Creator, the deity of Jesus Christ, and the action of the Holy Spirit by what was m effect tritheism, a belief in three Gods. While emphasizing the unity of God, the Monarchians also wished to honour Jesus and to explain the uniqueness of his life.

The Monarchians did not necessarily recognize a kinship among themselves, nor did they constitute a movement with a unified organization. While differing sharply from the Gnostics, they were, somewhat like the latter, diverse in the details of their views. Several of their leaders were expelled from the fellowship of the Catholic Church for their convictions, and others, more moderate, but with Monarchian tendencies, continued to be highly esteemed in that church.

In general, Monarchianism is usually said to have been of two types, dynamic (from the Greek dynamis — "power") and modalistic. The Dynamistic Monarchians believed that Jesus Christ was a man born of the Virgin Mary, and that in him was an impersonal power (dynamis) which issued from God. God's unity was thus preserved, for the power was not in any sense personal. Some of them have been styled Adoptionists, because they held that this power came upon Christ at his baptism, or, according to others, after his resurrection from the dead. This strain of thought was represented at Rome late in the second century and in the first half of the third century. Its leaders were excommunicated by the Bishop of Rome and attempted to found a separate church with their own bishop.

The most famous advocate of Dynamistic Monarchianism was Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch in the third quarter of the third century, and also a civil official. Paul was accused by his enemies in the Church of loving pomp and power, of having acquired wealth by reprehensible means, of permitting in his entourage questionable relations with women, and of craving applause for his oratory. Whether these accusations were true we cannot know, for his critics were looking at him with jaundiced eyes. Apparently he sought to stress the humanity of Jesus. He held that in God are the Logos and Wisdom, but the Logos is not a distinct being and is what reason is in a man. The Wisdom dwelt in the prophets, but was uniquely in Christ as in a temple. Jesus was a man, but was sinless from his birth. The Holy Spirit was in him, he was united in will with God, by his struggles and sufferings he overcame the sin of Adam, and he grew in his intimacy with God. Three successive synods assembled to go into Paul's life and views and the third condemned and deposed him. However, he held on to his bishopric until, about 272, the Emperor Aurelian forced him to give up the church property, perhaps because he had been of the party of Zenobia, the famous queen in Palmyra, whom the Emperor had defeated.

Modalistic Monarchianism is also called Patripassianism, because it held that the Father suffered, and Sabellianism, from Sabellius, its most famous exponent. Noetus and Praxeas, who were early advocates, held that the Father was born as Jesus Christ, thus becoming the Son, and that He died and raised Himself from the dead. Sabellius held that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three modes or aspects of God, much as the sun is bright, hot, and round.

This form of Monarchianism made its way to Rome at the end of the second century and in the first quarter of the third century. It gained partial support from two Bishops of Rome, Zephyrinus (198-217) and Callistus (217-222). Although he excommunicated Sabellius, Callistus gave out a statement which declared that the Father and the Son are the same, and that the Spirit which became incarnate in the Virgin Mary is not different from the Father, but one and the same. While denying that the Father suffered, it asserted that the Father suffered along with the Son. It seems to have been a modified form of Modalistic Monarchianism. Hippolytus, a contemporary of Zephyrinus and Callistus in Rome, a prolific writer and a theologian of distinction, bitterly denounced the views of Callistus and, an uncompromising rigorist in morals, also accused him of being too lenient with sinners in the Church, since, as we have seen, he permitted the restoration to the fellowship of the Church of those who had been guilty of even the most serious offenses.

Hippolytus, emphasizing the role of the Logos, was accused by Callistus of believing in two Gods. He would not recognize Callistus as bishop and for a time was set up by his followers as a rival bishop.

Monarchianism came to Rome from the East and here and there remained m Asia Minor, Syria, Libya, and Egypt for many years. It was especially persistent in Egypt. In the fifth century Augustine leaned towards Modalistic Monarchianism.

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