The Doctrine of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ!
The term ‘incarnation’ is applied to the act of a divine or supernatural being, in assuming the form of a man or animal and continuing to live in that form upon the earth for a certain period.
“The son, which is the word of the father, begotten from everlasting of the father, the very and Eternal God, of one substance with the father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed virgin of her substance, so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, Godhead and manhood were joined together in one person, never to be divided, where of is one Christ, very God and very man….” (Intr. to the 39 Articles of the Church of England, by Dr. Bucknell, p. 70)
This is the second article of the Christian Creed officially accepted by the Church of England and solemnly repeated by Christians all over the Protestant world. It affirms in the plainest possible terms the doctrine of the incarnation of the ‘the Son of God”, so that he could suffer, be crucified, and buried, “to reconcile His father to us; and to be a sacrifice not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men”.
The Christian Church believes in the incarnation of “the Son of God’, for without it, “the Son of God” could not die for “our sins”. This belief in the incarnation of God or ‘His Son’ was more or less a common feature of almost all the existing religions prior to the Pauline version of Christianity.
Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Mithraism, Magianism, Manicheism, and Paganism all these various religions and cults inculcated belief in the incarnation of God. If Bharat could boast of Rama and Krishna, as the incarnations of God; Persia took pride in the person of Mithra “the Son of God” who took the form of man to atone for our sins. Similarly Syria and Asia Minor, Greece and Rome, Iraq and Egypt all these countries abounded in the “Sons of God” and all these “Sons” appeared in human flesh in order to propitiate the angry “father” by their vicarious sacrifice.
Difference Between Hindu and Christian Views
Hindus do not believe in the romantic theory of the “Sons of God”. Owing to certain weighty reasons which i cannot state here for fear of digression from my subject, the popular belief in “the Sons of God” could not cross the Hindukush and Valley of the Indus. However, Hindus believe that God himself appears on the scene in the grab of some human being or animal, e.g.., Rama and Krishna were actually gods-incarnate.
Christianity, on the other hand, asks us to believe that it was not God but His Son who came down to this Planet of ours, full of Sin and Sorrow, to expiate for the guilt of mankind. It was not the Father who was crucified, but His beloved Son who died on the Cross.
A close study of the theory of incarnation reveals the fact that man, despite his deep researches in the domain of philosophy, was only playing like a child with pebbles on the shore, paying little attention to the profundity and depth or the enormous stretch of the ocean before him. His views regarding the majesty and the sanctity of Godhead were quite crude and childish. In spite of the true teachings of the apostles of Allah, man preferred to worship the god of his own creation. Little did he pause to reflect, that God was too exalted and sacrosanct to enter the uterus of a female. The idea of God has become so debased prior to the Birth fo Jesus that even pious people saw no harm in attributing human weaknesses and limitations to Him who is:
“Above the partners they attribute to Him. Whatever is in the heavens and on earth, does declare His Praises and Glory and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise”…. Holy Quran 59:24.
Presentation of the Doctrine
The Christians believe that the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus Christ is taught by St. John in the opening verses of his gospel. The divinity of Jesus is adduced from the following verse:
“In the beginning was the word (Logos) and the word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The following verse is produced in support of the belief in the incarnation:
“And the word was flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father full of grace and truth” (1:14).
The Christian theologians have presented the doctrine in the following manner:
“When we study the person of our Lord we are confronted with three main facts:
(a) Our Lord lived as a true man. His contemporaries, friends and foes alike, had no doubt of His humanity. He displayed human needs, hunger, thirst, wearings and the like. He exhibited a true human information and confessed ignorance on several occasions. There was real dependence upon His fellowmen; above all, real submission and self-surrender to the Father.
(b) On the other hand, the impression made by our Lord on those who knew Him was of one, who was more than man. He made a divine claim and His claim was proved true by the resurrection.
(c) Yet most certainly He was one person. His life was in all ways unity. ” (Dr. Bucknell, p.71).
Thus Christians believe that Jesus was God incarnate. But the fact remains that the dogma of his divinity was not accepted by the early Christians, for had it been an established fact from the very beginning there would certainly have been no controversy on this topic, amongst his followers. Every student of the Church history knows it full well, that quite a storm was raised by the early sects on the dogma of his divinity and it was only through the pressure of the Emperor Constantine, which he brought to bear upon the controversy in 325 A.C, that the church emerged triumphant over her opponents, who were silenced not by any logical argument but by sheer imperial scepter. The nazarenes, the Ebionites, the Alogians, and the Arians, denied the divinity of Jesus; but all these dissenting sects were compelled to surrender at the point of anathema ,,, a weapon forged by the church to coerce the unwilling souls into silence or acquiescence against their will. With these preliminary remarks I will not attempt to narrate the history of the doctrine so that the readers may be in position to view the whole controversy in its true perspective.
Christian theologians are of opinion that the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ is fundamental to Christianity and is the basis upon which the whole fabric of the Christian religion rests. Some of them have gone still further and affirm like Locker that:
” A pure spiritual essence without form and without emotion pervading all and transcending all, is too vague and abstract to yield us any real comfort.”
They further believe that “incarnation is that act of grace, whereby Jesus Christ, the Son of God; took upon himself the nature of man.” For instance, Hooker says: “By taking only the nature of man, Christ still continueth one person, and changeth but the manner of his subsisting which was before in mere glory of the Son of God and now in the habit of our flesh.”
The idea of the incarnation of God is un-Biblical and un-Jewish. Bishop Martensen says, “Judaism itself had never risen to conception of an incarnate” (Christian Dogma, sec, 128). This means that this doctrine was imported into Christianity from outside.
The use of the term may be traced back to St. Irenacus, who used this term for the first time in his work (Contra Haer, 1-10) in 180 A.C.
God the Father did not appear in flesh; perhaps He was too exalted for this act — it was God — the Son or properly speaking the Logos who veiled himself in human form”.
Christian theologians believe that the union of man with “God” in the person of JEsus Christ, which implies a blending together of the two natures, presupposes some element of nature common to both, for it is a matter of ordinary perception that “things absolutely dissimilar in their nature cannot mingle. Water, for instance, cannot coalesce with fire, nor can it mingle with oil”. (F.W. Robertson).
The meaning of incarnation:
“The Logos” says Dr. Maclintock “assumed our fallen humanity but by this is not to be under stood that he (Logos) assumed an individual body and soul, so that he (the Logos) became man; but that he assumed generic humanity and became the man. By generic humanity so to be understood a life — power — that peculiar law of life corporeal and incorporeal, which develops itself outwardly as a body and inwardly as a soul. The Son of God, therefore, became incarnate in which all human beings are one.”
Commenting upon John 1:14, Dr Olshausen says: “It could not be said that the word was made man, which would imply that the Redeemer was a man by the side of other men; whereas He represented the totality of human nature in His exalted personality.”
The same learned doctor again says in his comments upon Paul’s epistle to the Romans 5:15; “If Christ were only a man among other men, it is possible to think how His suffering and obedience could have an essential influence on mankind? Even apart from His divine nature, HE is to be regarded as realising the absolute idea of humanity.” Dr. Wilberforce says: ” If this (Jesus, suffering for the whole mankind) be denied, the doctrine of atonement becomes an empty phraseology though confessed in words.” Dr. Nevin in his Mystic Presence, p. 210, says: “The word became flesh not as a single man, but flesh or humanity in its universal conception.”
These statements as accepted by Dr. M’clintock also saviour too much of transcendentalism to be capable of general reception. The distinction drawn by scholars and theologians noted above is certainly beyond average Christian’s understanding. “It is sufficient”, maintains Dr. M’clintock, “to say that the Divine Logos actually assumed a human body and soul, not precisely such as fallen men have but like that of the newly-created Adam (to avoid the possibility of sinning or the ability to sin on the part of Jesus) or the logos became himself the archetypal man, after whom, as a pattern originally in the Divine Mind, the human race primarily fashioned.”
Before i further to tackle the knotty problems connected with the person of Christ, let me furnish the readers with a brief account of the term Logos so often used in this dissertation.
The Logos Theory:
We have already seen that St. John begins his gospel with the description of the Logos who, he says, was with God and was himself God. He introduces this subject without any introduction hence we are quite justified in concluding that he accepted the popular conception held by people regarding thi term. He affirms that the Christ — Son of God — was the Logos (word) and it was this Logos who became incarnate in man Jesus. Now let us determine the connotation of this term.
The term Logos was for the first time used by Heraclitus, the Greek thinker, to denote the orderliness visible in this universe, “the meaning of which incorporates the nation of rationality.” Later on, the Stoics used this term to denote the law of the universe.
About half a century before the birth of Jesus, Philo, the famous Jewish theologian, attempted to unite religion with philosophy. As the Gnostic and the Neo-Platonists regarded Matter to be essentially evil, the world of matter, they held, could not possibly be created directly by God who, being Holy, could not come in direct contact with matter. To obviate this difficulty presented by the Gnostic and the Neo-Platonic systems, Philo suggested that a relationship between God and the world could be established by means of intermediate agencies called ideas, forces or angles. After positing intermediaries of varying excellencies in this fashion. Philo applied, to the totality of them, the Logos to permeate and order the entire universe, so too, Philo conceived the Logos as God’s agency to be everywhere present. As his aim was to make the Jewish religion acceptable to the intellectually advanced people of his age, who adhered firmly to the notion of the Divine transcendence, he bridged the gulf between God and the universe by means of the Logos.
This Logos, Philo affirmed, was the Divine Reason, the first born Son of God, through whom the affairs of ceration are regulated. He uses this term in the twofold sense of Reason and Word and says that “By the Logos alone God is known to man; and it was by this means that He communicated with the Patriarchs in the Old Testament.” (History of the Christian Church by Dr. Jackson p. 155).
In short, philosophical writers and religious thinkeres, before the compilation of John’s Gospel, invariably used this term Logos to designate a being inferior to God and superior to mankind, by whom this world of matter was brought into being. He was distinct and separate from God and, to use Philo’s own language, he was “second god” and “manifestation of the Divine mind”.
St. John borrowed from Philo:
There is not doubt that the author of the fourth gospel (whosoever he may have been) tried to walk in Philo’s footsteps and borrowed this doctrine from the current philosophical literature to give Christianity a rational basis and present it to the intellectual world in the garb of a reasonable religion. Let me quote W. Lock:
“Alexandrine Jews, especially Philo, had tried to adapt these Greek conceptions to the Jewish thought. With him the Logos was the embodiment of the Divine powers, at times so personified that he could be called Divine and even a “second god”. It is almost certain that this teaching was known to St. John and St. Paul both and there is a conscious attempt here to attract Greek readers by embodying much of their thought.” (p.. 245)
This learned author fully corroborates my views that St. John intentionally dragged this philosophical term into his gospel, a procedure not adopted by his predecessors; Matthew, mark and Luke who do not make any mention of this term in their gospel, in order to invite the attention of the educated classes to his gospel. In other words he bedecked Christianity with borrowed plumes.
Now we have to tackle a very knotty problem at this stage, viz,,,, what was the connotation of this term in St. John’s mind when he used it in his gospel?
Christian theologians are almost unanimous in affirming that St. John only borrowed this term from Philo or some other source; but his conception of the Logos was quite different from Philo’s or other Neoplatonic writers and thinkers. In my opinion this view is utterly untenable.
(i) Had John’s conception been different from Philo or other philosophical writers, he would certainly have used this term with certain qualifications or expressed his difference with them at the very outset. But his use of this term without any introduction proves beyond doubt that he used it in the same sense in which it was used by writers before him and accepted its current connotation, which was as follows:
(a) The Logos was inferior or subordinate to the Real God or –
(b) As such, the Logos was quite a separate being from God — quite distinct in his essence.
(c) He depended for his being upon God.
(d) As he partook of the divine nature in a very large measure, he could also by way of courtesy be styled as a god or a lesser god or second god.
(ii) If the readers take the trouble of studying the Greek text with me, it will at once become evident that St. John used the term ‘Logos’ in the popular sense.
The Greek text runs as follows:
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with the God and the word was God.”
This is the literal translation of the Greek text. St. John employs the term ‘Ho Theos’ (the God) for God the father and simply Theos for the Logos; and according to the Greek usage the Real God is always referred to as Ho Theos (The God), “Ho” in Greek being the definite article (singular number, third person, masculine gender) while Theos without the definite article can be applied to other or lessor gods besides Him.
I have hereby conclusively proved by St. John’s own writing that he regarded the Logos not as God or equal to God but as god only — inferior and subordinate to the real God or the Father.
(iii) It is only on accepting this interpretation that St. John’s famous statement can yield any meaning at all.
St John says that God and the word have both existed from eternity. The word existed before the beginning of the creation. The word was co-existent with God and word was also a god or divine. Though this interpretation too is open to serious metaphysical objections, yet it is not absurd or ridiculous.
Now take the popular Church view. Christian theologians, ignoring all the rules of the Greek grammar, make the Logos, so to say, a full-fledged God equal to the Father in all respects. I ask only one simple question:
Is the term Logos synonymous with God?. According to the popular Church creed it is; for Jesus is God of God, and con substantial with God. If this is so, we can interpret the verse in question in this manner also:
“In the beginning was the God; and the God was with the God and the God was the God.”
If the Christian world, therefore, wants to save itself from exposed before the comity of the wise, she must perforce adopt my interpretation. If the Logos is synonymous with God. St.John’s verse carries no sense with it. It is, as seen above, quite absurd and ridiculous.
I leave it to the Christians, to accept whichever position they choose; in either case they are placed on the horns of a dilemma.
If they accept Philo’s interpretation, the verse shall have thereby been clothed with meaning, but that meaning would land them in Di-theism — belief in two distinct and separate gods; and if they decide to abide by the Church creed, they can avoid the pitfall of ditheism, but the verse in question shall become meaningless and absurd.
(End of Part 1)
Now returning to the former theme, i.e., presentation of the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus.
Christian theologians assert that Christ has two natures which are inseparably united in one person. “the divine nature consists in this, that Christ is God — the predicate God belongs to Him. The Human nature consists in this, that Christ is man, the predicate man is assigned to Him. His divine nature is the divine essence which subsists in the Logos from eternity and which, in becoming man. He still retained. Christ was really God in spite of His being in the body of Jesus. But his human nature was not something concrete with which He united himself. On the other hand, it was the nature of being which does not exist for himself but exists as an attribute in all other men.”
This is Dr. Ebrard’s view who devoted his whole life to the study of the problem of the person of Christ, and was one of the most renowned theologians of the 19th century. According to him, Jesus Christ was “perfect God” but not perfect man.
From what has already been recorded about the personality or the nature of Jesus Christ it is evident, to the dullest understanding. I believe, that the doctrine of the person of Christ is as enigmatic and irrational and self-contradictory as that of the Trinity.
History of the Doctrine
Let me trance the history of the doctrine in order to prove the truth of my assertion. The earliest controversies of the Church revolved round the physical nature of Christ; and it was only after two centuries of constant theological wranglings and metaphysical hair splittings that the essential oneness of Christ’s body with ours was established.
Iranacus says: “If Christ had not taken flesh from the very earth, he would not have coveted after those earthly nourishment s wherewith bodies taken from thence are fed. This was the nature which felt hunger after long fasting, was desirous of rest after travel, and groaned in heaviness, etc.”
The earliest fathers of the church, with the exception of Justin Martyr, held that Christ assumed only a human body, he had no human soul , the Logos became a substitute for it.
Justin Martyr is the first patristic writer of note who attributed body and soul to Christ. Then Tetullion and Origen further developed the doctrine of the human soul.
St. Athanasius brought this doctrine to perfection in the following words: “Christ was perfect God and perfect man subsisting in a rational soul and human flesh.”
St. Ambrose says: “God, Himself the word, was not to the flesh as the reasonable intellectual soul, but took upon Himself a reasonable intellectual soul of the same substance with our souls and the flesh like our own flesh. He was also perfect man, but without any taint of sin.”
Appolinarius the younger, in the 4th century, received the extensively prevailing opinion in the primitive Church that Christ connected himself only with a human body and an animal soul, i.e., he had no rational soul. two distinct beings persisting in their completeness, he argued, could not be united into one whole. Out of the union of the perfect human nature with the Deity, one person never could proceed. The rational soul of man could never be assumed into union with the Divine Logos so as to form one person.
This argument of Appollinarius has not yet been successfully refuted by any Christian writer from his day down to our own times.
There is yet another very serious objection to this union of the Logos with the man Jesus, which I must state here proceeding further.
If the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are One God and not three distinct and separate gods, then surely, at the time of incarnation, the Father and the Holy Ghost also must have become man like the son. If so, whose body did these two gods enter? And if not, the Father and the Holy Ghost are quite separate from the Son, which amounts to Tritheism pure and simple.
Further, if the Father and the Holy Ghost enterred the same body of Jesus son of Mary, along with the Son, why did Jesus pray, and how could he pray, and whom did he address in his prayers? If the father and the Son and the Holy Ghost did not act in perfect unity in this matter, the unity of purpose and will can never be proved or established.
If the Son became incarnate at the behest of the Father, the former is surely subordinate to the latter; we have two gods then, one senior and the other junior!
Now read what Thomas Aquinas, the greatest schoolman and the most renowned theologian of the Roman Catholic Church, has got to say in regard to these formidable objections:-
“Considered as an act, the incarnation is the work of the whole trinity, i.e., all the three persons combined, but in respect to the union of the divine and human natures it belongs only to the Son; since, according to the doctrine of the Church, it is the second person which assumed humanity.”
The readers should not be surprised at the shallowness of thought and the crudeness of logic in this exposition of the doctrine by the best brain of the Middle ages and the prince amongst the philosophers of the Christian world. The fact is that not even all prove that three persons are conjointly equal to one person. Consider:
(a) God is one, i.e., there is only one God. This is Monotheism, and the proposition is quite reasonable.
(b) God is three, i.e., there are three gods. This is Tritheism; the proposition, though not reasonable, is, after all, formally speaking, logically tenable, i.e., not against the laws of thought.
(c) God is one and three, both at one and the same time. This is illogical and irrational doctrine teaches that there are three gods, yet these three are not three but one only. This is Trinity; and this proposition is not only unreasonable but logically untenable. Perhaps you can adduce same flimsy arguments after all in support of Thritheism or polytheism; but no amount of ingenuity or dexterity on your part can help you in bringing forward any argument to demonstrate the truth of the Trinity which is a prima facie absurd proposition.
However, when the question of the “true divinity of Jesus Christ had been settled” at the Council of Nicaea held under the aegis of the Emperor in 325 A.C., the controversy shifted to his person. The point at issue, writes Dr. Bucknell, “was no longer whether He was of one substance with the Father — all parties having agreed on that– but of the relation between His divinity and His humanity. How could Jesus Christ be both the eternal Son and word of the Father and also truly man?” (Introduction to the Articles, p. 72).
As the “holy Catholic Church,” for certain reasons best known to her, decided to take the most illogical and unreasonable attitude towards God and Jesus, which is manifest in her dogmas regarding the Trinity and the incarnation, quite a storm of opposition continued to rage against these dogmas for several centuries, both inside and outside Church; and it was only by placing the poor opponents under interdiction and coercing them through the Inquisition and intimidating them through ex-communication that the “holy catholic church” succeeded in silencing her opponents whom she branded as heretic and their views as heresies. It may be noted at the very outset, that these so-called heretical views were, in majority of the cases, quite logical and reasonable and in all cases more plausible and feasible than those of the Church.
However, now i shall briefly describe these views so that the reader may be in a position to form some idea of the absurdity of doctrine in question.
Just to revive the main issue: the controversy now shifted to Christ’s person. Having granted that Jesus was the Son of God, the question was how could he be both truly god and truly man?
“Assuming the Christ, the Son of God, has appeared as a man, the problems arose as to what is meant by the Son of God or Logos? How is He related to God? This question was not forced by the metaphysical, but by a very practical interest. For the worship of Christ was the life of the Church from the beginning and it inevitably raised the retort from heathenism that Christians themselves had three Gods. It was the effort to meet this condemnation that drove men to define how Christ, a man, could become an object of worship for avowed and sincere monotheists.” (E.R.E. Vol. 7, p. 534).
The Primitive Church
The truth is that the primitive Christians knew nothing about the Trinity, the incarnation, the Atonement and the Original Sin etc, But when the Church began to borrow gnostic and Neo-Platonic theories and heathen rites from outside, both the pious followers and the saner minds began to revolt against those innovations, and as they were in minority, they were oppressed and finally suppressed by the all-powerful church; and their views came to be known as “heresies” in much the same way as the unsuccessful revolution of 1857 is known in Indian history as the “Mutiny” while America’s mutiny and rebellion is known as “the war of American Independence.” Why? Simply because the Indians were not successful in 1857 in their struggle for independence while the Americans succeeded in throwing off the yoke of foreign domination.
With this brief explanation of the real state of affairs, I now proceed to make a brief mention of some of the more important so called heresies which eventually turned the personality of the man Jesus into a veritable enigma or puzzle, beyond all hopes of solution till the last doom, unless the Christians accept the holy Quran’s verdict on the subject.
The so – called heretic Sects
(1) Eboinoism: According to Dr. M’clintock this was the first heresy which arose even in the life time of the Apostles themselves. Before describing its teachings I would like to make just a passing reference to the fact that the genesis of this “heresy” reflects upon the founder of the religion himself who did not think it worth his while to impart the true knowledge about his person to his followers, with the inevitable result that a never ending dispute arose amongst his adherents regarding his personality, which ultimately divided the Christian Church into so many warring sects and schisms. What a bold contrast between the founders of Christianity and Islam! Full thirteen and a half centuries have elapsed since the advent of the Holy Prophet (alehisalam), yet not a single note of dissension has ever been heard throughout the whole Muslim world in regard to the personality of the blessed founder. the Holy Quran proclaims in unequivocal terms: “say thou (unto mankind) ‘I am but a human being like yourselves: (but) it has been revealed unto me that your God is One God.” This single verse has for ever dispelled all doubts and set all speculations at naught regarding the personality of the Holy Prophet (alehisalam).
Reverting to the subject, the Ebionites who were the real followers of Jesus, believed that he was but a man like themselves; that God was one without a second; that only the gospel was genuine; that Paul had corrupted the simple faith of Jesus; that his epistles were not at all trustworthy or revealed; that it was necessary to obey the Mosaic dispensation for one’s salvation; that Jesus was not the Son of God, but only the Apostle of God.
These true adherents of Jesus know nothing about Trinity. Incarnation, Atonement, Original Sin or the Fall; and they read the “Injeel” revealed by God to His Prophet Jesus in the original Hebrew.
(2) Gnosticism: they held that Deity existed from eternity in a state of absolute quiescence, but finally He begot certain beings after His own likeness, of whom the Logos was one. He never assumed a material body, but became united with the man Jesus at his baptism and lived with him till his death. When Jesus died on the cross, the Logos too, like the soul, left the body and returned to his celestial abode. In other words, they did not believe in the incarnation of Christ.
(3) Docetism: The followers of this sect believed that Jesus Christ had but one nature, the divine of course, as two different natures could not subsist in one person. They completely denied the reality of his human nature; and represented whatever appertained to his human nature as a mere phantom. They maintained that Jesus Christ’s human body was an apparition — it was not real. he was seen by human beings as existing in flesh, but in (his body) was and optical delusion only. In short, he was “God” pure and simple with no real body or soul.
4)Monarchianism: The followers of this sect held that Jesus Christ was a mere man; but as he was born of virgin Mary by the power of the holy spirit, therefore a certain afflux from the Divine Essence dwelt in him and this constituted his personality. God is one and He has neither any equal nor partner. If Jesus is also God, there would be two gods and the Divine unity would vanish in the air. The Father alone is God and He exists by Himself, while Jesus derives his divinity from God the Father.
(5) Alogianism: The followers of this sect denied that Jesus Christ was the “Logos” or the “word of God”, and consequently rejected the gospel of St. John as spurious. Their contention was that Jesus was the Messenger of God. He never claimed that he was the Logos. They further held, and rightly so, that some Neo-Platonic teachers of the Church had compiled the so called gospel of St. John and, in order to attract the attention of the educated classes, presented Jesus in the garb of the Logos — a doctrine which was accepted by the enlightened people as the “gospel truth”.
(6) Theodotlianism: This sect was founded by Theodotus who held that Jesus was not God in the true sence of the word as that would be tantamount to Ditheism; nevertheless God in His Grace had endowed him with supernatural powers by which he performed so many miracles.
(7) Patripassianism: The followers of this sect believed that God is one who is styled as the Father; and Jesus was the incarnation of the Father Himself. It was not Logos, they held, who became flesh but Father himself appeared in the form of Jesus and it was God the Father who died at the Cross.
(8) Sabellianism: This sect was founded by Sabellius who held that the very notion of the Trinity was blasphemous and quite contrary to the teachings of the Bible and specially of the apostles who were totally ignorant of this preposterous doctrine. God, as clearly described by the Old Testament, (vide, the famous Commandments of Moses) was one, and the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost were so many different manifestations of the same God or three aspects of the same Deity.
Viewed as the Creator, he is the Father, viewed as the Redeemer, He is the Son, while, viewed as the Bestower of Gifts He is the Holy Ghost.
Thus the divine personality of Christ was totally denied by Sabellius and his followers. The personality of the Christ in flesh did not exist prior to the incarnation; nor does it exist now, as the Divine Ray incorporated in Jesus has returned to its original source.
Dr Burton says: “If we seek for a difference between the theory of Sabellius and those of his predecessors we would say that Noetus supposed the sole divinity of the Father inherent in the Son — Jesus; whereas Sabellius supposed it to be only a part which was put forth like an emanation, and was again absorted in the Deity. Further, Noetus acknowledged only one God or Divine Person, while Sabellius divided this oneness into three aspects of the Deity”.(note: Although this doctrine leaves the universe without God for three days — Jesus rose from the grave on the third day — which is blasphemy pure and simple, yet it is more logical than Trinitarianism which upsets the entire system of arithmetic,,, *regarding Patripassianism)
(9) Manichaeism: This sect was founded by the famous Persian teacher mani, who flourished during the 3rd century and died in 274 A.C. He accepted Christianity in 245 A.C. and soon after his conversion, started a new movement within the Church and gathered many followers. Later on, he claimed that he was the Comforter promised by Jesus Christ in John 14:16: “And I will pray to the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, so that he may abide with you for ever.” Thereupon the Church, which had been eying him askance since his conversion, excommunicated him and his followers from the Church. But some of his “heretical” views gradually found their way back into the Church and I have no doubt that Mani is responsible for the dualistic teaching of the Church as regards the sharp conflict between Matter and Spirit, the former being evil and the latter good. This dualistic principle ultimately permeated the entire sociological system of the West and is visible even today in the distinction maintained by Christianity between spirit and matter, God and Universe, clergy and laity, sacred and proface. Let me quote Iqbal in support of my views.
“In Islam, God and the universe, spirit and matter church and state, are organic to each other. Man is not the citizen of a profane world to be renounced in the interest of a world of spirit situated elsewhere. To Islam matter is also spirit, realising itself in space and time. Europe uncritically accepted the duality of spirit and matter probably from Manichaen thought.” (Allahabad Adress, 1930)
Mani and his followers believed that Christ had no real corporeal body, it was a mere phantom; hence he was not a perfect man as taught by the Church. He was in reality God, but he appeared as man so that people could come to him and listen to him. Matter being essentially evil, Christ could not come in direct contact with it, i.e., he could not assume real human body which is material and consequently evil.
(10) The Arian Controversy: Arianism was undoubtedly the most formidable of all the theories concerning the person of Christ. Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, started with a novel idea that the Father and the son were of one and the same substance or essence; hence equal to each other in all respects. Arius, one of his own presbyters took up the cudgels against this doctrine, which he declared was polytheism in disguise. If the Father and the Son, he went on to argue, were of the same essence, then there would be two distinct and separate gods, which was against the teachings of Jesus himself. The Christ, i.e., the Son, was not of the same essence but of a similar one and was created by the Father, of course with superior powers, out of nothing, the Father alone is eternal, uncreated, un begotten and un begetting, changeless and the primeval cause. The Son is certainly inferior to the Father who is the Creator and hence of a different essence.
Arius promulgated his views with a force which shook the very foundations of the Christian Church; and as his logic was unassailable, the Church requested the Emperor to summon a general council to crush that “most formidable heresy”. Constantine, accordingly, convened a general meeting of the bishops who assembled at Nicaea in 325 A.C. and there these 318 bishops decided the fate of the Son of God; and declared by an overwhelming majority of votes that Son is also God.
Poor Arius was banished to the Algerian desert in Africa and Arianism was suppressed throughout Christendom at the point of the sword of excommunication.
“To the layman”, observes Professor J.B. Burgess, “these problems and their solutions were unintelligible. To their native thinking, God, the Holy Ghost and the Son, were somehow separate beings yet at the same time one. Belief in the Trinity was not controverted; but exactly what the essential relationship was of the Father to the Son and of both to the Holy Ghost called forth a long drawn out debate between the Arians and the Athanasians, the dispute finally being settled at the Council of Nicea in 325.
The followers of Arius contended that God created the Logos in the form of a man, endowed him with the nature of God at creation, in order to use him to redeem mankind. The followers of Athanasius, on the other hand, claimed that the Logos was not created out of nothing, but was “eternally begotten of the Father”, of the same substance and nature as God, and, therefore, possessed of identical qualities. Though the Logos is identical with the Father, yet he is separate person. The Logos and a man (Jesus) became united by the will of God for the purpose of redeeming the souls of men. The Holy Ghost is still another being of the same substance and essence as God. All three, God, the Logos and the Holy Ghost are separate as being yet one in substance.” (Intr. to the History of Philosophy, p. 177).
Thus it will be seen that the Nicene creed inculcates belief in three separate gods who are, of course, consubstantial, i.e., Godhead is common to all the three.
(11) Apollinarianism: Apollinarius, the Bishop of Laodicia (died 378 A.C.) and a bitter opponent of Arius, constructed his theory of the person of Jesus Christ, in opposition to his teachings, but unfortunately met with the same fate as his opponent. He held that ‘nature’ was the same as ‘person’ and that tow natures (human and divine), each complete in itself, could not be united so as to form a real unity. Hence if Christ possessed both the divine nature and the human nature in all fullness, he would be two persons, not one.
This difficulty is a real one and the Church has offered no solution to it up to our own times. Now let us see, how Apollinarius solved it. He taught that the Logos already possessed in himself all the higher side of humanity. At this human birth, therefore, he needed only to assume a human body — the Logos having become a good substitute for human ego or soul. So the unity of the person of Christ was safeguarded. Christ was perfect God but not perfect man; for if he was both God and man at one and the same time, he would be two persons, which is absurd. ‘The functions of the soul were discharged by the Logos, which so commingled with the uncreated body of Christ that the two natures formed one homogeneous substance entirely sue generis.” (Dr. M’Clintock).
(12) Nestorianism: This sect was founded by Nestorius, a pious and learned bishop who was very much disgusted with the innovations and pagan ideas of some of the leaders of the Church and particularly with the epithet of the “Mother of God” bestowed on Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Nestorius taught that:
(1) Mary did not give birth to God as God, the Word was not cinceived by her. In truth, God the Word was not made flesh in her womb.
(2) Mary, consequently, is not the mother of God (Theotokos) as believed by the Church, but the mother of man or the mother of Jesus.
(3) Christ did possess two natures — divine and human — but they existed side by side; they were unmixed, because it is impossible for two heterogeneous susbstances to become one.
(4) The logos (the second person of Trinity) did not suffer on the cross, because God can not suffer nor die.
(5) He who died on the cross was man Jesus and not God because God cannot die.
For these reasonable views, he was banished from the “Holy Roman Empire”. He died in exile in 440 A.D. and with him his movement as well. And imperial order decreed that the property of the followers of nestorius be confiscated to the crown and no Nestorian should be employed in the state service. In this “honourable” manner was this rival of the Church crushed forever. The great fault of Nestorius was that “his Christ cannot rightly be worshipped” (Bucknell, p. 75) and the Church was bent upon worshipping two gods.
(13) Eutychianism or Monophysitism: This sect was founded by Eutyches, and abbot at Constantinople, and stands at the opposite pole of thought with regard to Nestorianism. Nestorius said that Jesus had two natures; Eutyches maintained that his human nature was completely absorbed int he divine, like a drop of vinegar in the ocean. Consequently Christ had but one nature. Nestorius denied Christ’s divinity; Eutyches denied his humanity; and the fun of it all is that both of them based their theories on the Scriptures!
However, this view was condemned at the council of Chalcedony in 451 A.C.
(14) Monothelitism: Emperor Heraclitus asked the fathers of the Church, whether Jesus Christ, as one person but possessing two distinct natures, was actuated by a single or a double will. If he had two natures, he should of course, possess two distinct wills — one human, the other divine. To meet this objection, some theologians opined that the two wills could not subsist in one personality: thereof Christ had but one divinely human will. But the Church disapporved this theory, and at the general council at Constantinople in 680 decided in favour of two wills.
Criticism of these Views:
The main problem, the relations of the Logos of man Jesus, remains unsolved. “The formula of Chalcedon”, rightly observes Dr. Bucknell, “leaves any attempt to show how they were united in a single life.”
If Jesus Christ is God, the question is how could ‘divine’ powers are activities leave room for a truly human life?
Again if he was divine, how could he possess a truly human consciousness?
If it is suggested in reply that he had double consciousness, well, the New Testament provides us with no such hint.
What change, let us ask, did the incarnation make in the life of the ‘blessed’ Trinity? If the second person in the Trinity assumed human flesh for 33 odd years, the Trinity must have been reduced to Duality for this period at least.
Still important is the question: How could Jesus Chrit, the Son of God, be at one and the same time living on earth as well as performing his cosmic functions as the second person in the Trinity? If Christ did not participate in the management of the affairs of the universe in conjunction with the Father, this amounts to a division of God!
If Jesus was God incarnate the two natures, the human and the divine, were inseparably commingled in the single personality, how will the Church account for such utterances of Jesus Christ as:
(a) “And Jesus said unto him, why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God”. (Mk. 10:18);
(b) “And Jesus answered and said unto it (the fig tree whom Jesus had approached, hoping to pluck some figs) ‘No man eats fruit of thee hereafter forever.” (Mk. 11:14);
“and in the morning they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots”. (Mk. 11:20);
(c) “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not even the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the Father.” (Mk. 13:32).
If some pious but ignorant Christian attempts to meet these irrefutable objections by suggesting that Christ uttered these truths in his human capacity, I would only remind him to repeat the Church creed loudly which runs: “The godhood and manhood were joined together in One person never to be divided whereof is one Christ.”
This official creed makes it impossible to divide Jesus Christ into two distinct beings. His humanity and his ‘divinity’ are not to be divided, as that would make him two persons. Therefore to say that he said such and such a thing in his human capacity is to be betray one’s ignorance of the “true doctrine” of the Church.
Lastly, we have a right to ask, if Jesus Christ was truly divine, nay true God, how could he be tempted by Satan?
There are many other objections besides these which can be rightly stated here in this connection but as I do not want to embarrass my Christian friends anymore, I would bring this subject to a close with the mark that the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus Christ is also as absurd and illogical as that of the Trinity.
How beautifully has the Holy Qur’an corrected all these erroneous views and reaffirmed the truth about Jesus Christ’s person and position:
“Verily Messiah Son of Mary is naught but an Apostle of Allah and verily many prophets have passed away before him. His mother was a righteous woman and they both used to eat food.” (V.75).