The Christian church exists only because of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. After the resurrection and subsequent ascension of Christ, the disciples were assembled to observe the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them, making them the new temple of the Triune God. Since that day, the history of the church has been one of strife, turmoil and controversy.
- Early in the first century, the Docetists taught that Jesus was merely a spirit; He only appeared to be flesh and blood during His incarnation. Conversely, the Ebionites taught that Jesus was only flesh and blood and denied that Jesus was God.
- In the first half of the third century, Sabellius taught that the Holy Trinity did not exist. Instead, God is merely one person who appears at different times as either Father, Son or Holy Spirit. Sabellianism was rejected by the ecumenical councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon. (See Section 2.7 of Theology Corner)
- In the fourth century, the Arians taught that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures. One nature was human but the other nature was not divine. Jesus was viewed as a creation of God and, therefore, not God himself. Jesus was, more or less, the physical incarnation of an angel. Arianism was condemned by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD but was resurrected in the nineteenth century by Charles Taze Russell and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. (See Section 2.5 of Theology Corner)
- Also, in the fourth century, the Apollinarians reacted strongly to the Arians and flipped to the other extreme. They taught that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures. One nature was divine but the other nature was not human. They based this teaching on the belief that man consists of body, soul and spirit making the trichotomous assumption that soul and spirit are distinguishable substantive entities. Jesus was thought to have the body and soul of a man but the spirit of the pre-existing Logos. Apollinarianism was condemned by the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. (See Section 2.5 of Theology Corner)
- In the fifth century, the Nestorians taught that Jesus Christ was two persons, one the divine Jesus and one the human Jesus. Mary gave birth to the human Jesus but not the divine Jesus. Nestorianism was condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. (See Section 2.5 of Theology Corner)
- Also in the fifth century, Pelagius, a contemporary of Augustine, taught that no one is born with a sin nature and our human intellect, wisdom and willpower are sufficient to overcome sin should it appear. Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. (See Section 2.8 of Theology Corner)
- Finally, in the fifth century, the Eutychians perpetuated the monophysite heresy. They taught that Jesus Christ was one person with one nature. That nature was neither fully divine nor fully human but a mixture of the two. Eutychianism was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. (See Section 2.5 of Theology Corner)
- For the next millennia, the eastern and western churches ruled Christianity with an iron fist. The eastern church lost significant power after Constantinople was overrun by the Ottomans in 1453. The western church of Rome has persisted as a center of power.
- In approximately 1540, however, Protestantism exploded under Luther and Calvin. Lutheran Theology is more deeply sacramental while the Reformed Theology of Calvin revived the predestination theology of Augustine. Luther publicly condemned Jews who did not convert to Christianity, during the last three years of his life, which tainted his legacy. Calvinism flourished and found its fullest expression in the 1646 Westminster Confession.
- Near the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Remonstrant Confession appeared in Holland as a foil to the perceived blasphemy of Calvinism; it was developed under the guidance of Arminius and Episcopius. A century later, Wesley added the concepts of Assurance of Salvation and Entire Sanctification resulting in what we now call Wesleyan/Arminian theology which frames the contents of this website.
- But after all this, the church of Jesus Christ today seems like a great ship that has slipped its moorings and is drifting into the darkness of the unknown. WOKE teaching has infiltrated many churches and major denominations have either split or are about to split. The UMC is the most recent.
Could the Christian church have followed a different path? For example, could Jesus have provided a concise and comprehensive outline to the world which covered all fundamental beliefs about God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Sin and Salvation? Could the apostles have been trained engineers or scientists who wove together the Core Beliefs of Christian theology and presented a final package in the gospels and epistles leaving no room for uncertainty or doubt? Could Paul have created epistles that were precise instruction manuals with no excess verbiage and no uncertain meaning (e.g. Rom 7:14-25)? Could Jesus have waited 2000 years to appear as a man so that His every move and utterance could have been recorded? All these things could have happened. But they did not and there must be a reason. Here is a possibility.
These alternate scenarios were precluded by the Rules of Engagement which have, for billions of years, framed the great war between the forces of God and the forces of Satan.
Because God decided not to exercise his omnipotence to end the war in an instant, He insisted that the spiritual forces of good and evil follow certain Rules of Engagement. These rules may be renegotiated from time to time in order to prevent Satan from completely destroying our lives. Conversely, the Rules of Engagement may also prevent God from exercising some power that might be construed as an unfair advantage in the eyes of the “rulers and authorities” in heavenly realms who are watching this war unfold (Eph 3:10). The Rules of Engagement define such items as: when and where battles are waged, how winners and losers are determined, the consequences of winning and losing, the Allowed Weapons for each side and the Constraints on Effectiveness for each weapon.
If you believe Satan is operating without God’s restraint, why did he not ensure your descent into hell by causing your death between your age of accountability and your reception of salvation? Or why did Satan not kill Jesus during the 40 days of temptation in the wilderness? If you believe God is operating without self-restraint, why does He continue to permit behavior He hates such as all manner of evil.
The primary Allowed Weapon for God’s human soldiers is prayer because, alone, we don’t stand a chance against the dark powers. Remember, the battle is spiritual and must be fought in God’s strength, depending on the Word of God and on God through prayer. The verbal Word of God is called the sword of the spirit. That sword is one of two offensive weapons in the full armor of God (Eph 6:10-18). The other offensive weapon is prayer. Only by prayer are we able to firmly grasp the hilt of the sword in our human hands, remove it from its scabbard and wield it against the invisible forces of evil. Prayer is the spiritual strength driving the sword of the spirit in our hands as we strive side by side with Jesus Christ to: (1) restore and repossess His corrupted creation which He has set free from the bondage of evil (healing); (2) help the unsaved cross the finish line of salvation and become disciples of Christ as they are being nudged by the Prevenient Grace of God which calls and convicts every soul to be set free from the bondage of sin (evangelism) and (3) by training and right living, prevent the influence of sin from undermining the Christian walk of the saved (discipleship). I may not have charismatic gifts. My relationship with Jesus may not always be as personal as I might wish. But I can stand up as an infantryman in the army of our commander in chief.
The constraints on effectiveness for this weapon of prayer are shrouded in mystery. We know only that God always does the most He can do given: (a) prayer as our primary weapon, (b) the constraints on effectiveness for this weapon and (c) the complex and evil powers arrayed against Him. Where free agents are involved, God's omnipotent will can be thwarted. What God is able to do in the world is hindered by evil powers exercising free will and using weapons beyond our comprehension. The reason why some prayers are not answered generally has nothing to do with what God wills or the depth of your faith. It is the result of: (a) the forces of evil exercising their freedom to wage battle and (b) a myriad of constraints on the effectiveness of prayer far beyond the depth of your faith. There is no mystery about God's character. All evil proceeds from wills other than God's. The mystery of evil stems from the complexity of creation and the warfare that engulfs it, not from some distorted definition of God's sovereignty.
All Christians have been bought back from the bondage of sin but not, in this life, set free from the influence of sin itself…redeemed from bondage, not from influence. Furthermore, Satan has no more desirable target than members of the church of Jesus Christ. Professing Christians can embrace sin almost beyond imagination. And yet, in the midst of strife, turmoil and all kinds of sin, Christians are commanded to reconcile with one another (Eph 2:11-22) and unite with all believers in the church of Jesus Christ (Eph 3:1-11). We must attempt to obey; belief must be preceded by repentance and followed by obedience to qualify as faith. As we stand side by side with Jesus in this war between good and evil, the suffering of the Christian soldier has a meaning and value to God commensurate with this titanic spiritual struggle of the ages.