Every year as Christmas comes around, I’m reminded of that great story about jolly old St. Nick, who gave a heretic a punch in the face.
As the story goes, during the Council of Nicea, while the church fathers were hammering out the creed that states Jesus Christ is “of one Being with the Father,” Arius stood up and gave a speech in which he denied this statement. His position was that Jesus is a created being, not co-eternal with the Creator, and therefore subordinate to him.
St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, grabbed Arius by the beard and punched him.
As Christians, we must take care to understand the principles of our faith. I admit this is difficult when it comes to the Trinity. On the one hand, we understand that Jesus Christ is of one Being with the Father, as Jesus tells us in John 10:30, “The Father and I are one.” Yet there is also distinction between them, otherwise how could Jesus say of the day of his return, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). Note also that when Jesus speaks of sending the Holy Spirit, he does not say “I will be your Advocate.”
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.—John 14:16–17
One of the most common doctrinal errors I see Christian writers make is the confusion of the persons of the Trinity. They have taken St. Nicholas’s lesson perhaps too much to heart. They interpret Jesus’ statement “The Father and I are one” so literally that they no longer distinguish between them. I have seen writers put things like Jesus is your Father, and he loves you, which is an error.
Yes, Jesus loves me, but no, he is not my Father. Jesus can properly be called Savior, brother, friend, even groom, as the church is his bride. But he cannot rightly be called Father.
Only the Creator is the Father, and Jesus is the Son. To confuse the two is to commit a doctrinal error opposite to that of Arius. Creator and Redeemer and Counselor are one in the fullness of the Godhead, but each is a distinct person with a unique role.
I am vigilant with my clients about preserving this distinction. But I promise not to punch anyone over it.
Happy Christmas, my dear speckies. Keep keeping the faith.