TXAB: The Christ Almighty Blog

28 September 2017

The Hidden Treasure, and the Valuable Pearl stories.

God’s kingdom is worth everything we have.

Matthew 13.44-46

Two quick parables Jesus told in Matthew are sorta parallel with one another. Maybe Jesus told the same story two different ways, so Matthew bunched ’em together. In any case here they are.

Matthew 13.44-46 KWL
44 “Heaven’s kingdom is like treasure hidden in a field which a person found—and hid it again.
In his joy, he runs off and sells all he has, and buys that field.
45 Again: Heaven’s kingdom is like a person—a trader seeking good pearls.
46 Leaving after finding one valuable pearl, he’s sold everything he has, and bought it.”

In both cases Jesus describes people who discover something so valuable, so worth it, they’re willing to give up absolutely everything they have for it. We’re not unfamiliar with the idea of Mammonists, gross materialists, who are willing to say and do anything for wealth. Including risk their existing wealth, if they figure the payoff is vast enough. Well, God’s kingdom is the very same way: It has just as vast a payoff.

But let me deal with the rather obvious bit of unethical behavior in that first story, the Hidden Treasure story: Dude finds treasure in a field, so he buys the field. But he doesn’t tell the owner what he found. He hid what he found. Either buried it back up again, or moved it elsewhere to hide it again; Jesus left it to our imaginations.

Didn’t this guy have an obligation to mention this to the owner?—who’s the rightful owner of this treasure? Didn’t this lack of disclosure mean he stole the treasure right out from under the previous owner? I mean, if someone bought your wallet for two bucks, and didn’t tell you you’d left 20 hundred-dollar bills in it, they just made $1,998 off your mistake. But it doesn’t matter if you overlooked the money; your deal was for the wallet, not the cash. That’s straight-up theft, innit?

Yes. Yes it is.

What, you expected the characters in Jesus’s parables to be as good as he is? They aren’t always, y’know. They include murderers, thieves, wastrels, and all sorts. Yet God’s kingdom is like them. Did you forget sinners are getting into the kingdom?

27 September 2017

The Yeast in Dough story.

How much dough do you imagine this was? Think bigger.

Matthew 13.33 • Luke 13.20-21

Jesus gave this parable right after the Mustard Seed story in both Matthew and Luke. It’s hardly a long story.

Matthew 13.33 KWL
Jesus told them another parable: “Heaven’s kingdom is like yeast.
A woman who had it, mixed it into three tubs of dough [80 pounds] till it leavened it all.”
Luke 13.20-21 KWL
20 Jesus said again, “What’s God’s kingdom like? 21 It’s like yeast.
A woman who had it, mixed it into three tubs of dough [80 pounds] till it leavened it all.”

But it greatly resembles the Mustard Seed story. That’s about how God’s kingdom is like a tiny seed which became an impossibly giant tree. In this story, the kingdom’s like yeast which a woman mixed into an impossibly large amount of dough. Three tubs’ worth.

I used our word tub to translate Matthew and Luke’s word sáta, because your typical bible translates it with the generic word “measures,” and who knows how big a measure is? The NASB went with “pecks,” which is a little more accurate, but still an archaic term of measurement.

All right: Sáta is Greek for seá (NIV “seah”), which is a third of an efá (KJV “ephah”). No, that doesn’t clear things up any, but this will: A seá holds about 12 liters. And since westerners tend to measure dough by weight, this means about 12 kilos or 26 pounds. The woman in this story is mixing three seás: About 36 kilos or 80 pounds. The NIV estimates 60 pounds, Mt 13.33 NIV but that’s based on the weight of flour, not dough. Dough’s heavier.

I used to work in a kitchen which had an industrial-size mixer for when we’d make lots of baked goods. I think we could fit a seá’s worth of dough into it; might be pushing it. Yet Jesus described a woman mixing three. Back in his day, that’d obviously be by hand. Maybe with a really large spoon; whenever I’ve had to mix a barrel’s worth of stuff by hand, I used an oar. It’s not light work.

This kinda begs the question: Why would this woman be mixing 80 pounds of dough? The way they made bread in the middle east, that’d make maybe 250 loaves. Enough for 100 people.

But like I said, these two parables are about impossibly large amounts. And Jesus is right about how yeast works: Given enough time, yeast will work its way into every last milliliter of that dough.

And again, the kingdom’s like that. Little bit of gospel spreads everywhere.

26 September 2017

Hyperbole. So I don’t have to explain it a billion times.

You saw what I did there, right?

Hyperbole /haɪ'pər.bə.li/ n. Deliberate exaggeration: A claim not meant to be taken literally.
[Hyperbolic /haɪ.pər'bɑl.ək/ adj.]

You may not be so familiar with this word, but you’ve seen examples of it all your life. And that’s not hyperbole.

Humans use hyperbolic language to get attention. You might not think much of the statement, “I had to clean a lot of dishes.” You pay a little more attention to, “I had to clean a truckload of dishes.” The exaggerated image gets attention. May even inspire a mental image of a literal truckload of dishes. May even strike us as funny, horrifying, sad, irritating; like most acts of creativity, it runs the risk of pushing the wrong buttons.

Of course some hyperboles are so overused, they get no reaction anymore. They’ve become clichés. “I worked my fingers to the bone” probably horrified someone the first time they heard it—“No, really? Ewww”—but nobody bothers to flinch at it anymore. Not even if people claim, “I literally worked my fingers to the bone.” Usually no they didn’t.

Humans have always used hyperbolic language. Nope, that’s not a hyperbole either: We really have. We find it in every culture. We find it in the bible. Even God used it.

Amos 2.9 KWL
“I destroyed the Amorite before their very eyes,
whose height was like that of cedars, strong like oaks.
I destroyed their fruit above, and root below.”

So, do you imagine the Amorites were literally as tall as cedar trees? After all, God said so. And surely God doesn’t lie

See, that’s the problem with hyperbole and biblical interpretation. Too many people take the scriptures literally. They figure if God’s word is nothing but truth, Jn 17.17 the scriptures oughta be absolutely valid in every instance, and contain no exaggerations whatsoever. ’Cause liars exaggerate, but God’s no liar. Tt 1.2 And if these two ideas (“liars exaggerate” and “God’s no liar”) are equivalent, it logically follows God doesn’t exaggerate. Ever.

Neither does Jesus.

Luke 14.26 KWL
“If anyone comes to me yet won’t ‘hate’ their father, mother, woman, children, brothers, and sisters,
or even their own soul, they can’t be my student.”

See, I put “hate” in quotes, ’cause Jesus doesn’t literally mean hate; middle easterners used that word when they spoke about things which took lower priority. Top priority was “loved.” Lower priorities might’ve also been loved, but in comparison to that top priority, they weren’t loved as much; so “hated.”

This is one of those examples, like “working my fingers to the bone,” where the exaggeration is such a cliché, middle easterners thought nothing of it. Problem is, our culture doesn’t. To literalists—particularly members of cults—this means they’re to cut themselves off from their families entirely. Divorce spouses, abandon children, have nothing more to do with anyone from their past. Don’t honor parents; Ex 20.12 hate them. In so doing, the cult can gain greater control over their followers.

This is why I had to add quotes. The NLT went with, “You must hate everyone else by comparison.” Lk 14.26 NLT That works too.

25 September 2017

The Mustard Seed story.

Lots of weird botany involved in this story.

Mark 4.30-32 • Matthew 13.31-32 • Luke 13.18-19

Another of Jesus’s parables about agriculture. In Mark he told this one right the Independent Fruit. In Matthew it’s in between the Wheat and Weeds and its interpretation, Mt 13.24-30, 36-43 and in Luke it’s after Jesus cured a bent-over woman. Lk 13.10-17

Uniquely (in two gospels, anyway) he starts it by especially pointing out it’s a hypothetical comparison to God’s kingdom.

Mark 4.30 KWL
Jesus said, “How might we compare God’s kingdom?
Or with what parable might we set it?”
Luke 13.18 KWL
So Jesus said, “What’s like God’s kingdom? What can it be compared with?”

Just in case you weren't yet clear he’s being parabolic. After all, there are certain literalists who struggle with the concept. Particularly in this story. I’ll get to them.

So, what’ll we compare the kingdom with today? How about a mustard seed? Various preachers, and maybe a Jesus movie or two, like to imagine Jesus holding up one such seed—as if any of his students could actually see the tiny thing between his fingers. This, Jesus said, is like the kingdom:

Mark 4.31-32 KWL
31 “Like a mustard seed?—which, when sown in the earth,
is smaller than all the seeds in the earth.
32 When it’s sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all the greens.
It makes great branches, so wild birds could live under its shadow.”
Matthew 13.31-32 KWL
31 Jesus set another parable before them, telling them, “Heaven’s kingdom is like a mustard seed,
which a person takes, sows in their field—
32 which is smaller than all seeds, yet can grow to be largest of the greens.
It becomes a tree, so wild birds are coming and living in its shadow.”
Luke 13.19 KWL
“It’s like a mustard seed, which a person takes and throws in their garden.
It grew and became a tree, and wild birds settled in its branches.”

Memorable story, right? Tiny little seed becomes a great big tree. God’s kingdom is like that. Didn’t start from much, and now a third of the world claim allegiance to Jesus. Still doesn’t start from much—when an evangelist comes into a community and starts sharing Jesus, it begins with one or two people or families, and before we know it there’s a huge church, and everyone’s flocking to it like wild birds.

That’s the rather obvious interpretation of this parable. That’s the consensus of what Christians have been teaching for millennia. Small beginning, big finish.

So what’s the problem? Well, Jesus wasn’t giving a botany lesson; he was using a parable to teach on the kingdom. But Christians, particularly literalists, keep getting hung up on the botany.

21 September 2017

Modalism: The illusion of three persons in one God.

On those who believe God is sometimes Holy Spirit, and sometimes Jesus.

Modalist /'mod.əl.ɪst/ adj. Believes God has multiple personas, approaches, functions, or aspects of his nature—which other Christians confuse with trinity.
[Modalism /'mod.əl.ɪz.əm/ n.]

When Christians don’t believe God’s a trinity, either they fully embrace unitarianism and insist Jesus isn’t God, or they kinda embrace unitarianism and insist Jesus is God… but God still isn’t three. He’s one. But he looks three, from our limited human point of view.

Why’s he look three? Time travel.

No, seriously. Time travel. I know; time travel hasn’t been scientifically documented. It’s still just theory. But we’re all familiar with science fiction, so we have a general idea of how it works.

If you don’t: Imagine a man, whom we’ll call Doc Brown. (I know; real original of me.) Brown has a time machine. He hops into it and travels 30 years into the past. There, he encounters himself from 30 years ago—the younger version of Doc Brown. If you were to stand there and observe this, it looks like there are two Doc Browns, interacting with one another. In fact they’re both the same guy: Brown got his personal timeline to loop around, and one segment of it overlaps another segment of it.

Well, says the modalist, this is kinda what God does. God exists outside of spacetime, which they’ll call “eternity.” This was a theory St. Augustine of Hippo originally pitched—and it’s bogus, ’cause it violates the idea God’s omnipresent. But a lot of Christians buy the whole outside-spacetime idea, ’cause they grew up hearing it, and it sounds clever and intelligent, and repeating it makes them sound clever and intelligent. Anyway, bear with me, ’cause modalists kinda need it to be true. It’s the basis of their theory.

Okay. So in this “eternity,” time’s a zero-dimensional point. There’s no past nor present nor future. It’s all now—all an eternal present instant to whoever’s in there. God lives in there; it’s where heaven’s located. (Somehow there’s music, which is entirely based on time, in heaven regardless. Sorry; had to digress to point out the logical inconsistency. Back to it.)

God decided to step outside this zero-dimensional point, enter our one-dimensional timeline, and become human. This’d be Jesus. But when Jesus (and we) look back at “eternity”… it’s not vacant. Because God’s still in there. He’s always in there. There’s no timeline, and no stretch in this timeline where God stepped out of it. It’s a zero-dimensional point, remember?

It’s like Doc Brown and his overlapping timelines. Looks like God’s in two places at once, but that’s an illusion, based on our lack of understanding about “eternity.” That is, unless we’re clever enough to figure it out—and modalists figure they’re just that clever.

Anyway, that’s why Jesus always had a Father to pray to: The Father was still, and is always still, back in “eternity.” But there never were two persons; just one person with a bendy timeline.

Same deal with the Holy Spirit: Whenever God steps out of “eternity” in the present day to do stuff—and doesn’t do it in Jesus’s human body—that’d be the Holy Spirit. And sometimes the Spirit overlapped Jesus’s timeline. But God wasn’t really in three places at once; it only looks it.

So this time-travel explanation is the most common way I’ve heard modalists explain the trinity. I don’t know who invented it, but it’s pretty clever. It’s rubbish, but it’s clever rubbish.

20 September 2017

The immature prophet.

The dangers of someone who can hear the Holy Spirit, but lacks his fruit.

Every Christian can hear God. This being the case, every Christian can share God’s messages with others: They can prophesy. They can be prophets. That’s why the Holy Spirit was given to us Christians in the first place: So we can hear God, and so we can share God. Ac 2.17-18 Now, whether every Christian hears God accurately, and prophesies accurately, is a whole other deal.

See, Christians are at all different levels of maturity. Some of us call it “spiritual maturity,” but there’s no practical difference between intellectual, emotional, and spiritual maturity: No matter what kind of immaturity we’re talking about, immature people are gonna do something dumb, because they don’t know any better. An immature human is always gonna be an immature Christian. We need to recognize this, and not move ’em into any positions of responsibility before they’re ready. 1Ti 3.6 And since I’m writing on prophecy today, obviously this includes letting people speak on God’s behalf. New prophets need supervision!

To the new believer, every voice in their head sounds exactly the same. Unless they’ve been supernaturally gifted (and don’t just take their word for it; what do they know?) they don’t yet know how to discern spirits. They can’t tell the difference between God’s voice, some other spirit’s voice, and their own. They all sound alike to them. You know the devil’s gonna take advantage of this.

Some of ’em never do learn the difference. Cessationists, fr’instance, assume every voice in their head is their own. Any clever idea which is actually a God-idea: They’re just gonna assume it’s their clever idea. Or assume it’s so out-of-character, it must be their crazy idea—and never share it, never obey it, don’t grow, and don’t grow others.

On the other extreme, we’ve got those Christians who for the rest of their life presume their own voice is God’s. And whattaya know: He shares all their wants, desires, and opinions! Some of ’em even proclaim these things as if they’re from God; they’re totally convinced they do speak for God… and it turns out they’ve been false prophets all along. You might remember Ahab’s prophet Chidqiyyá ben Khenana in the bible; I suspect he’s one of those guys who convinced himself he heard God, and of course he totally didn’t. 1Ki 22.24 Such people pass as authentic prophets ’cause they sound so certain—and know their bible well enough to be right more often than not. But they’re fake ’cause they’re sharing their voice. Not God’s.

The rest—the actual prophets, who actually hear God—tend to bollix their own prophecies for one rather obvious reason: They don’t yet have good fruit. They’re new, remember? They’ll grow fruit eventually. But because they’re still deficient in love, kindness, patience, grace, and gentleness, they’re not yet ready to speak for God. Because—

1 Corinthians 13.1-3 KWL
1 When I speak in human and angelic tongues:
When I have no love, I’ve become the sound of a gong, a clanging cymbal.
2 When I have a prophecy—“I knew the whole mystery! I know everything!”—
when I have all the faith necessary to move mountains:
When I have no love, I’m nobody.
3 Might I give away everything I possess?
Perhaps submit my body so I could be praised for my sacrifice?
When I have no love, I benefit nobody.

—they’re noise. They’re nobody. They benefit nobody. They will, someday. Just not just yet.

Let me reiterate these immature Christians do actually hear God. I’m not at all saying they don’t. Nor am I saying they’re frauds, nor malicious, nor bad Christians. But because they’re fruitless, they’re functionally just as error-plagued and destructive as any false prophet. So I warn you about ’em now. Watch out for them. Don’t become one of them.

19 September 2017

Submission. It’s not domination.

It has two definitions, and evil people are promoting the wrong one.

Submit /səb'mɪt/ v. Yield to or accept a superior force, authority, or will. Consent to their conditions.
2. Present one’s will to another for their consideration or judgment.
[Submission /səb'mɪs.ʃən/ n.]

Notice there are two popular definitions of submit in use. The more popular of the two has to do with acceptance, obedience, and blind capitulation. To turn off our brains, do as we’re told. And most sermons instruct Christians to do precisely that. Submit to one another, as Paul ordered.

Ephesians 5.21 NIV
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

’Cause we kinda have to. If we can’t submit to God—if we insist on our own way, our own standards, our own values, our own lifestyles—it’s a pretty good bet we’re outside his kingdom.

Romans 8.5-8 KWL
5 Carnal people think carnal things. Spirit-led people, Spirit-led things.
6 A flesh-led mind produces death. A Spirit-led mind, life and peace.
7 For a flesh-led mind is God’s enemy. It doesn’t submit to God’s law. It can’t.
8 Those who live by flesh can’t please God.

So we especially submit to God. Jm 4.7 And to Christian leaders; 1Pe 5.5 we follow the doctrines they proclaim from the pulpit. And wives, submit to your husbands. Ep 5.22 When he says “Jump,” you ask “How high?”

Then there’s the other definition of submit: The one where it’s not typical of a relationship between a benevolent (or not-so-benevolent) despot and their subjects, but between partners, friends, or coworkers. One where we instead bounce ideas off one another. Find out whether they help or inconvenience one another—and of course try to help as best we can.

One which sounds appropriate for a paráklitos/“helper” Jn 14.16, 14.26, 15.26, 16.7 and the people he’s trying to help. For a teacher and his pupils. For a loving God and his kids.

So… which definition d’you think fits what the authors of the scriptures were talking about?

Oh, the benevolent despot thingy? Well it does work for cult leaders and wannabe patriarchs. But in God’s kingdom, where the king calls us his friends, Jn 15.15 where love doesn’t demand its own way, 1Co 13.5 it’s pretty obvious that definition is entirely incorrect. In many ways it’s kinda the opposite of God’s intent. Almost as if the devil got Christians to flip it 180 degrees, n’est-ce pas?

18 September 2017

Praying when we suck at prayer.

Hey, we’re not all experts.

Years ago I was reading Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, a useful book on prayer. In it he described the most basic, elementary form of prayer he could think of, which he calls Simple Prayer. Basically it’s just talking with God, which is all prayer really is.

But I believe there’s a form of prayer even more elementary than Simple Prayer: It’s what I call the I-Suck-At-Prayer prayer. It’s the prayer every new Christian prays. The prayer every pagan prays when they’re first giving prayer a test drive. The prayer even longtime Christians stammer when we’re asked to pray aloud, and suddenly we feel we’ve gotta perform… but not overtly. Christians might pray every day and rather often, yet we’ll still pray the I-Suck-At-Prayer Prayer from time to time.

It’s based on discomfort. It’s when we realize we need to pray in a manner we’re not used to. Maybe somebody else has been leading our prayers. Maybe we’ve been praying too many rote prayers—it’s easier to use the prayer book, or the pre-written prayers in our favorite devotional, and just got out of the habit of extemporaneous prayer—praying without a script, talking to God just like we’d talk to anyone. Some of us feel incapable of it, so we never do pray like that.

So we stammer. Stumble. Suffer stage fright. And our prayers become big ol’ apologies to God for how poorly we’re doing. “Forgive my hesitation; I need to pray more often.”

Foster described Simple Prayer as the starting point of prayer. But plenty of people don’t even make it to the starting block. We get too hung up on “I suck at prayer,” too busy apologizing for our inability to express ourselves, too busy flogging ourselves for not praying “properly.”

I put “properly” in quotes ’cause we Christians often have a screwy idea of what’s proper in prayer, and get way too hard on ourselves because we don’t meet our own unrealistic expectations. Usually we’ve picked up these ideas from “prayer warriors” who make their showy public prayers sound impressive—and people assume their prayers oughta sound like that.

Hence we wind up with Christians who…

As I’ve said, prayer is talking with God. Nothing more than that. If we can talk with our family members, we can definitely talk with God. (If you struggle to talk with them, or they’re distant instead of gracious, I get why God might be a problem.) We don’t have to sound formal. We don’t have to speak in bible language. We don’t even have to be articulate—though we should make an effort, ’cause we are trying to communicate after all. We just gotta go find some privacy, open our mouths, and talk with God.

15 September 2017

The wealthy, their crimes, and their coming judgment.

On the misdeeds of the wealthy in James’s day.

James 5.1-8.

This next bit of James was directed to the specific people of James’s day.

Problem is, not every Christian has understood this. You know how we humans are; we wanna make everything about us. So we’ve looked at this passage and tried to figure out how it applies to us and the people of our day. Especially the people of our day, since rebuke and judgment are involved: We definitely want those bits to apply to other people.

Since James dropped a reference or two to Jesus’s second coming—an event which’ll take place at any time, a belief Christians have held since the beginning, and even Jesus’s first apostles watched out for it, as Jesus instructed—historically we’ve interpreted this bit as an End Times reference. It’s not really. In the New Testament, “the last days” doesn’t refer to the End Times, but the Christian Era. Ac 2.17, He 1.2 The “first days” were before Christ; the “last days” are after God’s kingdom has come near. As historians call ’em, BC and CE. And in these last days, we’re to live like the kingdom’s arrived—not like it hasn’t, and never will.

So when James rebuked the people of his church for living the same old lifestyle during “the last days,” he meant they weren’t acting as King Jesus’s followers should. Whether today or during the End Times. That should be our takeaway as well: If you’re wealthy, do try not to behave like these people.

And do try not to read this passage through your End Times filter. Read it for what it says.

James 5.1-8 KWL
1 Come now, wealthy Christians: Lament loudly about the sufferings which you’re going through.
2 Your wealth has decayed. Your clothes became moth-eaten.
3 Your gold and silver have tarnished. Their poison will be your testimony:
It’ll eat your flesh like fire. You stockpiled for the last days.
4 Look at the wages of the workers who reap your fields—withheld by you, so they cry out.
The reapers’ roar has entered the ear of the Lord of War.
5 You all lived comfortably, luxuriously, on the earth. You fed your hearts on the day of slaughter.
6 You all condemned, murdered the Righteous One, who doesn’t resist you.
7 So be patient, fellow Christians, till the Master’s second coming.
Look, the farmer awaits the land’s precious fruit,
patient about it till they can get early- and late-season rain.
8 Be patient yourselves as well. Strengthen your minds:
The Master’s second coming has come near.

Okay. In James’s day, the wealthy Christians in his community were suffering. In part because their wealth had come to nothing. And more suffering was coming—because they’d ethisavrísate/“accumulated wealth” (KJV “laid up treasure”) instead of doing what they were supposed to be doing with it: They weren’t paying their employees.

Some people use this verse to knock the rich in general; to promote a little class welfare. This isn’t about all the wealthy; it’s not James knocking the rich for being rich. James got on their case because their workers were suffering, and crying out to God. So this is a prophecy from James, who’d been told by the Holy Spirit why the wealthy in his church were losing their money: God was judging them for their evil.

Yes, evil. It’s against God’s Law to not pay your employees. In fact the Law stipulates we have to pay ’em the same day they worked. None of this saving up till payday, like we do nowadays.

Deuteronomy 24.14-15 KWL
14 Don’t tyrannize needy and poor employees,
whether relatives, or foreigners who live in your land or within your gates.
15 Give their wages that day. Don’t let the sun come down on them first.
For they’re poor. They carry their soul in their hands.
Don’t let them call the LORD about you, and let it be sin upon you.

The unpaid reapers Jm 5.4 had told God on their bosses. This triggered Kyríu Savaóth—which is a half-translation, half-transliteration of YHWH Chevaót/“the LORD of Armies” (KJV “LORD of hosts”), our God when he’s about to do battle. These people’s ruin was God’s judgment on their misdeeds.

In that day. Not in the End Times. God isn’t always gonna wait till the End to open up a can of whup-ass. The cycle of history happens over and over again for this very reason.

Hence if the wealthy exploit the poor in this generation, there’s every chance God may take away their wealth again. It may not be the End Times… but it’ll definitely feel like the End Times for these people.

14 September 2017

Arianism: One God—and Jesus isn’t quite him.

On Christians who think Jesus is a lesser god.

Arian /'ɛr.i.ən/ adj. Believes God is one being, one person, not three; and that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are created beings and lesser gods.
[Arianism /'ɛr.i.ən.ɪz.əm/ n.]

So I’ve been writing on unitarian beliefs—namely that there’s one God, but contrary to how he’s been revealed in the New Testament, these folks insist God’s not a trinity. Now, pagans and other monotheists don’t bother with the New Testament, so of course they don’t believe in trinity. But Christians do have the NT—yet some of us still don’t believe in trinity. We’d call these folks heretics, and of course they’d call us heretics, and round and round we go.

The first major anti-trinity heresy Christians came across is Arianism—a word pronounced the same, but not the same, as the white-supremacist view Aryanism. It’s named for Áreios of Alexandria (c. 250-336), a Christian elder—or in Roman Catholic thinking, a priest. In Latin he’d be Arius. It’s based on Áreios’s insistence Jesus isn’t God, but a lesser god. Therefore God’s not a trinity.

You gotta understand where Áreios was coming from. When you read the gospels, Jesus is clearly a different person than his Father. His Father is God, Jn 8.54 and if you don’t believe, or can’t or won’t believe, God consists of more than one person, you’re gonna come to the conclusion Jesus isn’t the Father, ergo Jesus isn’t God.

Yeah, there are verses which bluntly state Jesus is God. Jn 1.1 What’d Áreios do with them? Simple: He allowed that Jesus must be a god. But not the God.

You gotta also understand where Áreios came from. Third-century Egypt was predominantly pagan and polytheist. They believed in Egyptian gods, Greek gods, Roman gods, and any other gods which sounded worth their time. Christianity, in contrast, is monotheistic: One God, and all the other gods are demons. The idea of trinity, or of Jesus being God like the Father is God, rubbed Áreios the wrong way. To him it sounded way too much like weird gnostic polytheism. But two gods?—he could live with two gods.

Áreios was hardly the first to believe this. But he was the first to successfully spread the idea around. Largely through the use of catchy worship songs which taught his theology. Here’s a bit from his song “Thalia,” quoted by then-deacon (and Áreios’s chief critic) Athanásios of Alexandria. De Synodis 15. My translation:

The First One made the Son—the first thing he created.
He made the Son himself, giving birth to him.
Who doesn’t have any of God’s being nor uniqueness,
For he’s not the same. He’s not the same stuff as him.

The lyrics don’t sound all that catchy to me, but the music must’ve been way better.

Hence for a while there in the early 300s, Arianism was rapidly becoming the main form of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Even the emperor, Flavius Constantinus, had become Arian.

And if you think Arianism died out in the 300s, are you dead wrong.