The Divinity of Christ, part 1—Orthodoxy and Heresy
On any given subject in the world of science, there are opposing points of view. For example, some physicists contend that light consists of waves. Other physicists say, no, you’re incorrect. Light consists of particles. Quantum physicists say you’re both wrong because it’s both.
We could cite numerous examples where two or more scientific theories are at odds with each other, but yet where all of them are considered to be within the bounds of scientific orthodoxy by the majority of scientists.
Conversely, there were men like Nikola Tesla, John Keely and Viktor Schauberger whose ideas (for example, ideas such as what we now call Zero Point Energy) were so threatening to the mainstream scientific community of their day that these men were labeled as charlatans, fakes, frauds and worse.
They were not welcome—or at least not for very long—in the scientific circles of their day. They were outcasts. The denizens of scientific orthodoxy excluded these geniuses from the circle of scientific acceptability.
In short, these gentle giants were scientific heretics. Since their mainstream opponents could not understand nor could they refute the science of Tesla, Keely and Schauberger, the so-called heretics were often harassed, frequently threatened, and occasionally even physically beaten.
Their sources of financing were withdrawn. They were ridiculed, and when that treatment proved ineffective, they were eventually ignored. Such is often the fate of the pioneer and the proclaimer of truth—especially when it threatens to overturn orthodoxy. Because when orthodoxy is overturned, those currently occupying the pinnacle of orthodoxy lose their wealth, power and prestige.
The same pattern is found in the world of politics. In America, there are acceptable differences of opinion in the political realm. But these differences are bounded by the parties known as Democrats and Republicans.
We find the same pattern in the realm of medicine. There are powerful interests who control what is acceptable and what is not. Although alternative medicine has been making inroads over the past several decades, the medical-pharmaceutical powers-that-be still attempt to stifle the health “heretics” by labeling them as quacks, charlatans, frauds, snake oil salesmen, etc.
In many areas of life, we could remark on the same phenomenon. Whatever the field of endeavor, there are powers-that-be who continually strive to maintain their power and position by controlling what is acceptable disagreement and what is not. That which is deemed acceptable is within the circle of orthodoxy. What is not is heresy.
The origin of the word “orthodox” is from the Greek words which meant “right opinion” and “right thinking.” It is interesting to note that orthodox is defined in the Webster’s 1828 dictionary as “sound in the christian faith; believing the genuine doctrines taught in the Scriptures; opposed to heretical.” (Emphasis mine.) Would you agree that by “genuine doctrines” Webster meant true doctrines?
Notice how the meaning has changed as this same word is defined in my 1977 Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. Nowadays, orthodox means “1. conforming to established doctrine, esp in religion.”
We notice that there is now no denotation that the established doctrine is necessarily the truth; only that it is the established doctrine. Consider that in the world of religion, one of the established doctrines is that the fate of unsaved people is that they will consciously fry and cry, roast and toast, and squirm and burn in unquenchable fire for all eternity. That is orthodoxy.
Then you have persons such as myself and my colleagues who proclaim that the eternal hell fire doctrine is totally false. For that we are considered heretics by the vast majority of the church world. So be it; we will stand for the truth of the Bible.
I began with that little discussion of orthodoxy and heresy because it demonstrates that I know from personal experience what it is like to be considered a heretic. When it comes to the Word of God, the Bible, there is truth and there is false doctrine. Obviously, therefore, there is right thinking and there is heresy.
In my view, however, one should be very slow to regard as a heretic another person who proclaims belief in Christ. One should be careful to distinguish between major issues and minor issues. Are you going to label someone a heretic who believes women should be permitted to have shorter hair than you might believe is “right thinking?”
Or are going to label as a heretic someone who believes that a woman wearing a skirt one inch shorter than what you believe is proper? Am I being sarcastic? Not in this case, for there have been church splits over just such silly issues with each side labeling the other as—in so many words—heretics.
Over the years I have found myself becoming more tolerant of differing viewpoints on various difficult (i.e., not as clear cut as some might think) Bible doctrines and issues. That has occurred because in my younger years, I was absolutely certain I was right on certain doctrines, but now I realize that a few of my previous beliefs were in error.
(When this has occurred in the course of my Bible-teaching career, if it was major, I have publicly announced that I was in error, and have asked the recipients of my false teaching on the Tape Ministry to destroy the cassette tapes.)
Those experiences in my life and in my growth in the faith tend to cause me to allow more leeway of belief, and allowances for youthful misunderstanding by others. And by “youthful,” I mean either one’s chronological age, or one who is “youthful” (immature of understanding) in the faith.
However, everyone draws boundaries. Just as in the scientific community, so also in the theological community, one can be tolerant of differing viewpoints and still consider individuals’ tenets to be within the circle of orthodoxy—right thinking. But you can’t give away the store!
In other words, one cannot be so tolerant that virtually anything goes. “Oh, so you believe that Jesus was an ancient astronaut and Lucifer is his brother spaceman? Well, that’s wonderful, brother, welcome to our Christian fellowship!” Seriously, I would have trouble with that tenet.
Hopefully, we all draw lines in our own thinking, and if someone’s beliefs go over that line, then that is where one has to consider the person to be so far off the reservation that they are believing heretical doctrines.
Today I begin a study of a doctrine which is not minor by any stretch of the mind. In my view, it is one of THE major foundations of the Christians faith. Yet, it has been a source of controversy since the beginning of the New Testament (NT) church. Church councils proclaimed one side as heretics and blood was shed over this issue.
This doctrine concerns the person of Jesus Christ and His nature. These days there are numerous attacks on the divinity of Jesus Christ from all quarters. Not that that is anything new. As I said, it has been so since 33 AD.
But in our era, it has become all pervasive. Christian beliefs are being attacked by the “news” and entertainment media in a manner not possible before now due to the near universal reach of the media. In many cases, they are going right for the jugular, attempting to strangle the Christian faith by denying and/or casting grave doubts upon the deity of Christ.
A well-known example is the book, and more recently the movie, The Da Vinci Code. This cleverly-written novel would have readers accept the notion that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
Further, that they had a child—a daughter who became the founder of the Merovingian monarchy and dynasty of the Frankish kingdom. Moreover, it is alleged that Jesus faked His death on the cross with the help of the disciples and that He lived to be a ripe old age, but eventually died. Different stories have Him buried in southern France or Tibet or elsewhere.
But this story is not new. Indeed, Dan Brown, who authored The Da Vinci Code, was merely borrowing ideas for his fiction from prior pseudo-historical works, such as Bloodline of the Holy Grail (1996) by Laurence Gardner. I dealt with other works of Sir Laurence Gardner in my series of lectures entitled From Inner Space to Outer Space (still available; see below).
For those of us who believe the whole Bible, here’s a hint of Gardner’s treatment of the biblical Jesus. He writes a section in chapter 8 called “Paul’s Mythological Jesus.” Enough said.
But Gardner was a late-comer because this field had already been tilled and popularized by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln in their books, Holy Blood, Holy Grail (1982) and the sequel, The Messianic Legacy (1986), and The Woman with the Alabaster Jar (1993) by Margaret Starbird. The theories set forth in all of the above, I critiqued in my two-CD lecture entitled Holy Grail, Holy Bible (see master order form) and further in my 20-lecture series, From Inner Space to Outer Space.
More recently, the Discovery Channel aired a documentary by the famous film director and producer, James Cameron (Titanic, Terminator, Avatar). This slick production, called The Lost Tomb of Jesus, is but another salvo at the deity of Christ.
This documentary show viewers ten little stone boxes (ossuaries) purportedly found in a Jerusalem suburb in 1980 which allegedly contained the bones of Jesus, his wife, and their children.
As I said, such attacks are nothing new. Back in the 1960’s, when I was still a teenager in Catholic seminary, I remember reading a book by Dr. Hugh Schonfield called The Passover Plot. It was my first exposure to the theory that Jesus had faked His death and resurrection. It shocked me!
To verify the author and title, I just did a web search and discovered my memory is correct on both and further discovered the book is back in print as of 2004 for the 40th anniversary. The blurb on Amazon says this:
“There is probably no other figure in modern Jewish historical research who is more controversial or famous than Hugh J. Schonfield, who once said: “The scholars deplore that I have spilled the beans to the public. Several of them have said to me, ‘You ought to have kept this just among ourselves, you know.’”
What he did to “spill the beans” was present historical evidence suggesting that Jesus was a mortal man, a young genius who believed himself to be the Messiah and deliberately and brilliantly planned his entire ministry according to the Old Testament prophecies–even to the extent of plotting his own arrest, crucifixion and resurrection.
Since Schonfield’s death in 1988, his popularity and the interest in his prodigious work, which included over 40 books, has drawn increasing attention, particularly outside Judaism. In fact, it is probably fair to say that his contribution to the Gentile understanding of Jewish aspirations among those within the Christian cultural framework has been without parallel. In true Christian tradition, he has also been the cause of much contention.”
Yet, despite my reading such blasphemy at such an impressionable age (15-16), it did not shatter my faith that Christ Jesus was and is God. Even after quitting the seminary (and Catholicism), and having nothing to do with any churches for a season, our heavenly Father never withdrew His grace from me on that issue. Although I did not attend church for a long season, I always believed that Jesus Christ was/is the visible manifestation of God, the Supreme Being, Creator of all that is, etc.
These kinds of attempts to destroy the Christian faith have been around since the beginning. While the attacks from assorted antichrists and the secular world are a cause for concern, I am actually more concerned about denials of the divinity of Christ from among those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. (To be continued.)